As a truck driver, part of the perk of your job is you get to travel to and from cities across the U.S. on a regular basis. Your month might include driving from Bangor, Maine to Los Angeles, California, and along the nation’s highways, byways and rural routes. While you haul loads from coast to coast, the thought of moving to one of the friendly or bustling cities you see may become a real consideration. However, you need to know if you can earn more as a truck driver when working for trucking companies elsewhere.
Before you decide to switch trucking jobs or move to a new area, do your research. Several cities throughout the U.S. are well-known for having better paying trucking jobs, while other cities have a bad reputation for low paying loads. Thankfully, the best paying cities for truckers can be found from the eastern seaboard to the Pacific Northwest, giving you plenty of options in terms of living and driving conditions. Take into consideration the top paying haul types among the better paying cities, as well, to place yourself in the ideal trucking location for your job (and salary) preferences.
PAY RANGES OF TRUCKERS IN THE U.S.
When you look at how much money you will earn as a truck driver, being a seasoned veteran of the road does not necessarily equate into a larger salary. Heavy duty truck driving is an industry that is unusual in this respect. While most jobs lead to bigger paychecks based on seniority, truck driving as a career starts out strong by paying rookies around $40,000 a year. After a couple of years behind the wheel, you will increase your pay, but not by much.
For example, drivers who have up to 10 years of over-the-road experience are earning a median annual salary of $42,000 – only a couple thousand more than when they started. What about the drivers who are well seasoned, with a million or so miles under their belt? These drivers are averaging an annual salary of $49,000. So, you can expect to see a growth in your trucking salary by only about $10,000 over the course of your trucking career.
This affects drivers in a couple of ways. First of all, you can know that as soon as you get your CDL and are behind the wheel as a truck driver, you are earning a substantial annual salary. This is a great boost for individuals interested in getting into a growing career where they can bring home the bacon from day one. At the same time, if you want to earn more as a trucker, then you have to bank on something other than your seniority and over-the-road mileage. You may also need to consider living in a city and state where truck drivers make more money. By choosing a better paying city as your home base, you can increase your pay by up to 18% in comparison to the national average for truckers. That equates to the ability to increase your annual salary by more than $7,500 while driving the same number of miles, yet from a different city. In 10 years, that boost in annual pay is worth a whopping $75,000, so it’s definitely something to consider.
TOP PAYING U.S. CITIES FOR TRUCK DRIVERS
As a tractor-trailer truck driver who is searching for a better paying city for your truck driving job, you are in luck. There are several cities throughout the U.S. that are paying above the national average for truck drivers. Consider the data for the following well-paying cities:
Seattle, WA trucking jobs pull in 16% greater pay, for an annual median salary for truckers at $49,327 a year, which is $6,691 greater than the national average.
Houston, TX trucking jobs earn 12% more than the rest of the nation, giving truck drivers there an annual median salary of $47,936 a year, which equates to $5,300 over the national average.
Denver, CO trucking jobs are paying 9% more than the national average, for annual trucking salaries of about $46,553 a year, or $3,917 more than most other cities.
Indianapolis, IN truckers earn 8% more for an annual median salary of $46,253 a year, at $3,617 above the national average.
Truck driving jobs in Atlanta, GA have an average annual salary of $44,290 a year, which is 4% more than many other cities. That is $1,654 above the national average for truckers.
Philadelphia, PA trucking jobs bring in 2% more than the national average for jobs, along with an annual median salary of $43,669 a year, which is $1,033 more than the national average.
Truck driving jobs in Los Angeles, CA offer truckers the exact national average median with 0% difference, at just $42,537.
From the bottom of the line with L.A. trucking jobs to the top of the totem pole of jobs in Chicago, you have quite a range in pay differences. Keep in mind that each of these cities offers a wealth of job opportunities for truckers. Whether you are employed by a trucking company or working as an owner operator, you are going to find plenty of work in these major cities. That is a plus for truckers trying to earn more money. Additionally, these cities are famous for being central hubs of transportation for the import/export of goods.
WHY THESE CITIES RANK THE HIGHEST
Chicago, IL is a huge fixture in both export/import and domestic transportation. In addition to having the busiest airport in the world at O’Hare International, Chicago is also home to the Port of Chicago. This has been the second busiest port in the U.S. since the beginning of colonialism, second only to the eastern seaboard’s New York ports. As a result, truck driving jobs in Chicago are in high demand, and they are better paying than in any other city in the U.S.
Second up is Seattle, WA offering another port-side location that leads to great volumes of imports and exports. Truck driving jobs in Seattle are vital to the economy of the Pacific Northwest, which is famous for lumber, seafood and fresh produce. Rainer cherries and Washington State apples are just a few of the beloved foods that come out of the Seattle area, thanks to the hard work of truck drivers there. Houston, TX is the other top-paying city for trucking jobs that lies near the coastline, which benefits from the export/import economy that drives trucking jobs in many cities with major harbors.
Denver, Indianapolis and Atlanta do not have ports to attract a great number of goods in and out of their borders, however, these cities are famous for being regional hubs of industry. As a result, truck drivers who live near these major urban centers can find well-paying routes and loads, ranging from oversized trucking jobs, to tanker loads, to hazmat hauling opportunities, and more.
If you do not want to live within the city limits of the best paying cities for truckers, consider setting up your home base in the suburbs. This grants you the close proximity of working in and out of these great paying locations, but, at the same time, can offer you more affordable housing and utilities (and a better lifestyle) living in the outskirts of a major city. As a trucker interested in earning more money, saving wherever you can is going to help you keep more of your money.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PERKS IF AVAILABLE
When looking for a trucking job in one of the better paying cities, you can expect to bring home a sizable paycheck. However, that is not the only way you may be getting paid. Many trucking companies, big and small, provide various forms of income to truckers. This can help you increase your overall income, even though you aren’t going to see the increased wages in your weekly check. For example, you may receive profit sharing bonuses at the end of the fiscal year. This is typical among smaller trucking companies, as a way to attract truck drivers to jobs that have limited routes and haul types.
For larger trucking companies, such as JB Hunt, Con-way and Schneider, you can expect to see things like bonuses based on your performance. For example, if you are maintaining a low fuel mileage and getting loads delivered on-time regularly, you may be eligible for a bonus, if the trucking company offers such perks. Speak with your human resource department to see what types of bonus programs are available to you. Another way you may be able to increase your income is through retirement funds. If your employer offers a 401K program in which they match your contributions, consider taking them up on the offer. This can be a great way to make your money grow, while helping you stash some cash for your post-trucking years.
CERTAIN TYPES OF HAULS THAT PAY MORE
When you are searching for better paying cities for truckers, you should also consider that certain haul types are going to pay more in certain cities. This is a way to help you narrow down the cities you are thinking of moving to in order to bring home a bigger paycheck. Start by looking at the better paying haul types.
Consider which types of hauls you already pull, and then see whether or not these hauls are going to be in demand in the city where you are thinking of moving to. Here are some haul types and their annual salaries, based on national averages, to give you an idea of the better paying types of hauls out there:
LTL drivers $84,000; regional trucking jobs $67,000; flatbed trucking jobs $60,000; auto hauler jobs for truckers $59,000; tanker loads for truck drivers $55,000; local drivers $55,000; household goods and straight truck drivers $54,000; dry bulk pneumatic drivers $53,000; OTR truck driving jobs $53,000; team drivers $51,000; reefer trucking jobs $46,000; dry van loads $44,000; truck driving school drivers $35,000; and boat haulers $34,000.
For truck drivers interested in hauling in and out of the port cities, such as Chicago and Seattle, expect to find trucking jobs involving reefer loads, flatbed loads and boat hauling. On the other hand, loads out of the Midwest and South may include hauls such as tanker loads, such as from the oil fields of Texas, or flatbed loads from rock quarries in Georgia, just to name a few.
Determining which load types are best suited for you as a truck driver, in coordination with the cities where these are most likely to be located, will help you make the best choice in choosing a top paying city for truckers as your new home.
OTHER WAYS TO EARN MORE AS A TRUCKER
If you are stuck in a rut with your trucking career and want to increase your earnings, consider looking into the haul types you don’t typically pick up. For example, if you are not endorsed on your CDL to handle tanker loads or hazardous materials, consider opting to get these endorsements on your Class-A CDL. This will greatly increase your chances of earning more money as a trucker.
Another way to increase your salary is to pick up all types of loads, including oversized loads, boat loads and auto-hauling jobs. Expand your horizons as a trucker and pick up new load skills in the process. You will expand your services and learn about new, possibly more profitable, ways to haul loads as a truck driver.
If you have only worked OTR jobs, think about picking up some regional loads for a period of time. Maybe you would be better suited at hauling local loads, where you get the chance to learn new routes and skills, while also getting the opportunity to be home more.
Finding the best paying trucking jobs is only going to benefit you if you are happy and satisfied with where you are living and working. Determine how to make the most of your truck driving career so you can live the life you want to, rather than working solely for a paycheck. And, don’t forget to join the NorthAmerican Transportation Association (NTA) for help you may need down the road. We can help you be more organized and more professional, which will also help your bottom line. Visit www.ntassoc.com or call us at (562) 279-0557.