The trucking job market is one of the most important and largest industries in America. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there are more than 1.8 million truck drivers employed in the United States, making it one of the country’s largest professions. And with an annual salary of nearly $45,000, truck drivers are also among its highest-paid workers.
So what does it take to become a successful truck driver? What kind of career options are available in the trucking industry? And how much can you expect to earn? This guide will answer all those questions and more as we take a comprehensive look at America’s trucking job market.
Before we begin, let’s take a moment to understand the different types of trucking jobs available. There are two main paths you can follow in the trucking industry: owner operator or company driver.
Owner Operators – Owner-operators are self-employed individuals who make their living by delivering goods for different clients. They are responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own semi-truck though many find it beneficial to lease their vehicle from a commercial leasing company. Once they have purchased or leased their truck, they use it to deliver any cargo that is required of them. Their earnings vary greatly depending on how much cargo they can carry at once, which region of the country they operate in, and what type of cargo they choose to haul.
Company Drivers – Company drivers work for transportation companies and are typically assigned to a specific route. They are responsible for delivering goods in a safe and timely manner and must follow all company guidelines and regulations. Company drivers often receive benefits such as health insurance, 401k plans, and paid vacation days. Their salaries also vary depending on the company they work for, but typically fall somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 per year.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the different types of trucking jobs available, let’s take a look at some of the most common careers in the industry.
Truck Driver – As mentioned earlier, truck drivers are among the country’s largest professions with an average salary of nearly $45,000 per year. Truck drivers operate commercial vehicles to transport cargo and deliver goods from one destination to another. They must have a valid driver’s license issued in the state they are operating in, as well as a high school diploma or GED certificate. A background check will also be required before you can begin working for any trucking company.
Entry-level jobs typically pay around $30,000 per year while more experienced drivers can earn up to $100,000 annually. For more insight on starting salary information for truckers visit our Starting Salary page.
Trucking Company Manager – Trucking company managers are responsible for the overall operations of a transportation company. They oversee the hiring and training of drivers, maintain relationships with clients, and ensure that all company policies and procedures are followed. A high school diploma or GED certificate is typically required for this position, as well as several years of experience in the trucking industry. Company managers can expect to earn an annual salary of $60,000 to $80,000.
Trailer Mechanic – Trailer mechanics are responsible for the maintenance and repair of semi-trucks and trailers. They must be able to diagnose and fix any problems that may occur with these vehicles, as well as keep records of all repairs made. A high school diploma or GED certificate is required for this position, as well as a certification from a reputable mechanic school. Trailer mechanics typically earn an annual salary of $35,000 to $50,000.
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the most common trucking jobs in America, let’s move on to discussing salaries.
As we mentioned earlier, salaries in the trucking industry vary greatly depending on your position and experience level. However, there are a few general salary ranges that you can expect to see across the industry.
Truck Driver – As mentioned earlier, truck drivers can expect to earn an average salary of nearly $45,000 per year. Entry-level jobs typically pay around $30,000 per year while more experienced drivers can earn up to $100,000 annually.
Company Driver – Company drivers often receive benefits such as health insurance, 401k plans, and paid vacation days. Their salaries also vary depending on the company they work for, but typically fall somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 per year.
Trucking Company Manager – Company managers can expect to earn an annual salary of $60,000 to $80,000.
Trailer Mechanic – Trailer mechanics typically earn an annual salary of $35,000 to $50,000.
As you can see, there are a variety of trucking jobs available in America. But what are the requirements you need to meet before applying for one of these positions?
Before you can apply for any trucking job, there are several requirements that you will need to meet first. Most companies require that all potential employees have a valid driver’s license issued in the state where they plan on operating. Many also prefer drivers who have previous experience in the industry and/or military training on their resumes. Other common requirements include:
Medical Certificate – All commercial drivers must be medically certified. This certification is usually obtained every two years through your doctor or medical examiner. You will be required to take various physical exams, vision tests, blood work, and a drug screen.
Commercial Driver’s License – Commercial driver’s licenses are required for all truck drivers who operate large vehicles which weigh over 26,000 lbs. To obtain this license, you must pass several tests including basic knowledge of traffic laws and regulations, written exams, driving demonstrations, and physical exams. The exact requirements will differ by state (and even by the company). Be sure to check with your potential employer to determine the specific testing procedures for their business.
Background Check – Most transportation companies will require that you undergo a background check before starting your job. This screening is typically performed through the Department of Transportation (DOT), but can also be conducted by an outside agency like HireRight. The background check will look for any criminal activity or violations on your driving record.
While meeting these requirements is certainly important, it’s also crucial that you find a company that is the right fit for you. In order to do this, you need to understand the different types of transportation companies that are available.
There are three main types of transportation companies: truckload carriers, Less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers, and freight brokers. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
Truckload Carriers – As the name suggests, truckload carriers transport goods in full truckloads. This means that the company will have a dedicated fleet of trucks and drivers that are used to move goods from Point A to Point B. Because of this, truckload carriers are often able to offer more reliable service and shorter delivery times.
Less-than-truckload Carriers – LTL carriers transport goods in smaller shipments (hence the term “less than truckload”). This can be done by either picking up individual loads from multiple suppliers or consolidating several small shipments into one larger shipment. Due to the increased complexity of managing these smaller shipments, LTL carriers typically charge higher rates than truckload carriers.
Freight Brokers – Freight brokers do not own any trucks or drivers of their own. Instead, they act as a middleman between transportation companies and shippers. This allows brokers to offer more competitive rates by negotiating lower prices with carriers. However, because brokers do not physically move the goods themselves, they are often less reliable than truckload or LTL carriers.
Now that you understand the different types of transportation companies, it’s time to start thinking about which one is right for you. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I need a reliable service with quick delivery times? – If you need your goods transported quickly and/or on a fixed schedule, then a truckload carrier may be the best option for you.
Can I afford to pay higher rates? – LTL carriers typically charge more than truckload carriers. If you are on a tight budget, then you may want to consider other transportation options.
Do I need access to multiple transportation companies? – If you frequently switch between suppliers or need to move goods to multiple destinations, then a freight broker may be the best option for you.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start narrowing down your search by company size, location, and services offered. Be sure to ask around and read online reviews to get an idea of what each company is like before making a decision