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Long Haul Truck Driver Salaries: How Much Do They Make?

Long-haul truckers are a vital part of the transportation industry. Truckers move a stunning 72.5% of goods in the United States. Long-haul or over the road (OTR) trucking can be an excellent opportunity to operate independently and transport different types of loads. But there are tradeoffs, like being away for days or weeks at a time. Is the long-distance truck driver salary worth it? How much do long-distance truck drivers make anyway? Let’s take a look.

road with truck

How much do long-haul truck drivers make per year?

Long-haul trucker pay varies widely. It depends on the company you drive for, how much experience you have, what type of equipment you operate, and even your geographic location. But we can look at the average long-haul truck driver salary for a few different scenarios.

W-2 long-haul drivers

According to ZipRecruiter, the average base salary for a company long-haul driver is $64,210 per year. Salary ranges from $30,500 for newer drivers at small carriers in rural locations to $96,500 for drivers at big carriers with decades of experience.

1099 long-haul drivers

Owner-operators who contract with trucking companies are considered 1099s or contract drivers. On paper, they tend to make a lot more than company drivers, averaging more than $221,000 per year. But this doesn’t tell the whole story because 1099 drivers are responsible for their own expenses, from truck maintenance to insurance. They end up taking home around $80,000 or less after costs.

close up view of w-2 form calculator and dollar bills

Long-haul driver salaries vs. short-haul driver salaries: Which pays better?

Long-haul trucking is generally defined as routes that cover more than 250 miles, but many truckers drive much more than that. Short-haul trucking includes all routes of fewer than 250 miles. Short-haul drivers may drive regionally or locally.

Long-haul drivers usually earn more than short-haul drivers, although some short-haul drivers, especially those who drive locally, are great at stacking loads. While each load may pay significantly less, those who can keep loads moving could actually earn more money.

How do long-haul truckers get paid?

Some OTR truckers are salaried, meaning they make the same amount of money each week regardless of loads. But most of the time, long-haul truckers earn by the mile or get a percentage of the load.

  • Percentage of load. Depending on your contract, your revenue cut on a particular load could vary from 25% to 85%. This can be a great way to make money on high-value shipments, but you might not even break even on a low-value load.
  • Mileage. Mileage pay is more predictable. Regardless of what the load is worth, you’ll make a set amount of money per mile. Of course, you’ll need to know exactly how the carrier calculates mileage to make sure you’re earning more than you’re spending per mile.

How can long-haul trucker drivers increase their pay?

As you can see, “How much do long haul truckers make?” is a complex question that depends on many factors. But that also means that you have some control over how much you make. Here are a few ways to increase your pay.

  • Find and book more loads. If you’re a company driver, someone in the office usually books loads for you. But for owner-operators, the fastest way to make more money is to keep your truck rolling with high-paying loads. The Truckstop.com Load Board lets you find good loads from trusted brokers and shippers. We also give you all the tools you need to help negotiate rates, plan your route, and more.
  • Use technology to streamline payments. With Factoring from Truckstop.com, you can get paid right away in exchange for a small flat fee. Freight brokers sometimes take 30 days or more to pay.
  • front of truck with oversized load sign

  • Move specialized freight. In general, the more complicated a load is, the more you will get paid. Consider getting a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) endorsement or transporting oversized loads. Ice road truckers also make significant money if you’re up for the challenge.
  • Obtain your own operating authority. If you operate under a carrier’s authority, you can maximize your profits. Operating under your own authority basically turns you into a carrier with all the responsibilities and money-making opportunities of any other carrier.
  • Purchase cargo insurance. Make sure your business is protected in the event of a mishap. The reality is that if something happens to a load while it’s on your truck, you might be on the hook for paying for it. If it happens to be a high-value load, you could lose a lot of money quickly. Cargo insurance is an inexpensive way to make sure you’re protected.

What is the job outlook for long-haul truck drivers?

While nothing is certain but change, the outlook for long-haul drivers is strong. You may have heard of the current trucker shortage, which isn’t likely to subside anytime soon. This shortage is good news for you because it means the trucking industry has a high demand for and a low supply of drivers. There are plenty of job opportunities, and you will likely get better rates.

Book higher-paying long-haul loads.

Long-haul trucking can be a highly rewarding career. You’ll have a lot of independence. But the job can also be demanding, and you’ll want to make sure you’re making enough money to be worth it. Fortunately, there are many ways to increase your pay, such as getting a HAZMAT endorsement or you can use factoring solutions to get paid more quickly. But the basic fact to remember is that if your truck isn’t rolling, you aren’t making money. Use the Truckstop.com Load Board to find and book high-paying loads from trusted and vetted brokers and shippers. Get started today.

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