How Is A First Year Truck Driver’s Salary?

While the average new truck driver’s salary is between $34,000 and $42,000 annually, you can expect that the lower end of the pay scale is reserved to those with lesser experiences. As with many other jobs, truck driving pay depends upon education, skill, and experience.faq image 1

A lot of companies may even offer cash incentives and pay bonuses as rewards and that can also help to increase your salary.

What Are Some Examples of High Paying Truck Companies For Rookies?

Swift Transportation

One of the highest paying trucking companies for new drivers is Swift. They not only take on the rookies but they also train them and help them to pay off their schooling fees by allowing them to work off their debts over a period of 26 months as they work for the company.

When starting out with Swift, you can make about $41,000 for your first year and by year 3, as a team driver, you could be earning twice that much if your performance and safety record remains good (source).

J.B. Hunt

Another company that pays well for their rookie drivers is J.B. Hunt. With the starting average pay close to $40,000 and additional perks and bonuses available for top drivers, you can easily gain additional income (source).


Scheider is another great company for both rookies and more experienced drivers. With starting pay close to $50,000 per year and a ton of different discounts and benefits exclusive to drivers it makes for a great company to work for if you can handle looking at all of the orange (source).

How Much Salary Will Change Based On Your Experience?

Different companies pay their driver’s different amounts and some may start out with new drivers averaging about $40,000 while the more experienced drivers make closer to $70,000 annually.

Your experience and education both play a roll in determining how much your salary can change.

  • If you are starting out with zero driving experience and only a high school diploma, you can expect to be close $37,000 a year.
  • Meanwhile, if you had zero driving experience and a bachelor’s degree you would be making closer to $38,000. With your pay increasing about $200 a year for every degree thereafter.
  • With 5 years’ experience and a high school diploma you’d be starting off close to $38,000 and with a bachelor’s degree would be around $38,500.
  • 10 years experience and no degree gets you about $39,000 and with a bachelor’s you be looking at $40,000.

While degrees can help you to increase your early salary with truck driving, the salary is more heavily dependent upon the amount of experience you have behind the wheel.

Pay Per Mile vs. Pay Per Hour

So how much do truck drivers make? Are they paid per mile or per hour? The answer is both. This is also why it can be considered an issue or confusing for some. While some truck companies such as UPS or FedEx pay hourly for their employees, most freight companies have truck drivers paid per mile.

When a freight driver is parked and sitting in a lot during their rest period or while waiting for a new load to come in, they are still technically at work, because they are away from home. On average truck drivers are paid between $0.28-$0.45 per mile with the better-paying jobs being offered to those with more experience.

This means that if you take a pay-per-mile job you could ultimately end up making more money than if you had taken a job that paid hourly.

Reminders for New Truck Drivers

You won’t get the best routes

When you are first starting out on the road, you have to accept that the better routes will go to those with more experience. While this means you may have to deal with less than ideal routes for a few months or years, your time will come and eventually you will be given priority on the better routes.

You won’t be home often

Long haul truck drivers that are driving by themselves (not team driving) are usually on the road for about 4-6 weeks at a time before coming home. When they are home, it’s usually for a few days at a time before heading back out on the road.

Local driving jobs can have you home a few times per week but the pay is usually less due to there being less mileage.

Guaranteed days off and emergencies

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the job and the constant changes that come with freight, you may not get to be home on specific days. Meaning that even if you request days off, it may not be guaranteed.

While most companies will try to accommodate emergencies, freight is time-sensitive and other drivers may not be available to help immediately. You may be required to push through and continue on the road until your freight has been brought far enough that someone else can take over the load.

It could be better to start with a larger company

While larger companies may pay less than smaller owner/operators might, there are actually a few good reasons to choose the larger companies while you are gaining your driving experience.
1. The health insurances and copays are better: When you’re with a bigger company they are able to get the better benefits packages thanks to the number of people that they employ. This helps you in turn and can have you enjoying life on the road without fear of gaining medical debt.

2. There could be cash bonuses that help to even the playing field: Safe driver packages or pay tuition fees in exchange for working for the company for a set amount of time are both great benefits that come with some large companies. When you consider the cash value of the free tuition or the cash bonuses in your yearly salary, it may be pretty comparable to a smaller company.