During a time of economic woes for millions of Americans, many have turned to the lure of professional truck driving as a new career. With continual media coverage spreading the news of a truck driver shortage and a vocation that offers new drivers a median annual salary of $42,158 as a company driver, many find the opportunity all too enticing.
Unfortunately for most, once they are out in the real world of OTR trucking, reality soon sets in and far too many will realize that the second largest industry in the United States has played on their hopes and desperation.
Truck Driver Wanted Ads
The following ad is a common approach used within the industry to draw inexperienced CDL drivers into the marketplace:
“Graduates can earn between $33,000 and $39,000 their first year and with two or more years’ experience can earn between $60,000 and $80,000.”
To discover a more accurate account of what new, recent CDL graduates can expect from a career in long-haul trucking, we posed the question to some experienced veterans of the industry via our ask the trucker Facebook page:
- “First year: $24,000 and for the second year, $33,000 maybe.” Todd B.
- “More realistically, I would say $25,000 first year, then $30,000 second.” James N.
- “$34,000 for their first year and $40,000 for their second year.” Stephen A.
- “First year, maybe $35,000 and after two years, I would guess about $40,000.” Lisa W.
- “No way. Most new drivers get just above the poverty level pay. I have heard some company drivers talk and they are ecstatic to get a $500 paycheck.” Gregg N.
- “I have been at the same company going on 10 years and I am still at just above the poverty wage.” Tom S.
Most veteran drivers agree that the key to a decent truck driver wage is finding the right company which often takes years of building driving experience and learning just who those carriers are; even then, due to the inside dealings of the industry, a high salary for most, proves hard to come by.
Veteran driver, Robin B. offered some advice to those considering a truck driving career:
“I would tell drivers starting out to get one to two years under their belt, then start looking for opportunities to transition to; anything other than OTR dry van or reefer. The more specialized you can get the better off you are going to be. Whether you get into flatbed, tanker, oversized or whatever, they all have advantages and disadvantages, but they will generally be better. The other things to look at are the LTL carriers, either P&D or line-haul and the private fleets.” She ended laughingly with: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an unhappy driver working for Wally World.”
Still, it is interesting to note that there is always a large gap between average annual wages of even the veteran CMV company drivers; those who can make $27,000 per year and those who earn $65,000 annually.
Many suggest that once you have attained three to four years of experience, it can be to your benefit to move away from the large, mega carriers and go to a smaller, more family oriented company, but as many drivers agreed, this is still no guarantee.
Veteran driver, Frank A. took a more laid-back approach by simply saying: “I’ve been at it for 18 years and I haven’t broken the bank yet.”
© 2013, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.