Truck drivers, sometimes called truckers or long-haul truckers, use heavy trucks to move tons of freight great distances. They may either be employed by a trucking company or self-employed; self-employed truck drivers are sometimes called owner-operators. To legally work as a tractor-trailer truck driver, an individual is required to hold a valid commercial driver's license.
Average Pay and Pay Range
As of 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that tractor-trailer truckers earn an average wage of $19.40 per hour and an average salary of $40,360 per year. Half of long-haul truckers in the United States reported annual salaries ranging from $30,910 to $47,540. The lowest-earning 10 percent made $25,110 or less per year, and the highest-earning 10 percent brought home $58,910 or more per year.
Pay by State
Tractor-trailer truck drivers tend to earn varying rates of pay in different states. Probably due to the long distances they have to drive to deliver freight, those in Alaska earned the highest average salary in 2012, $51,280 per year. Truck drivers in Massachusetts ranked second at $46,020 per year, followed by those in North Dakota, who averaged $45,700 per year. Nevada ranked fourth at $45,580 per year, while Wyoming ranked fifth at $45,520. West Virginia reported the lowest rate of pay for truckers, $34,410 per year.
Pay by Industry
Most truckers work in the general or specialized freight trucking industries, earning an average of between $39,000 and $42,000 per year. However, some work directly for companies in other industries. For example, truck drivers working directly for grocery stores earned an average of $44,400 per year in 2012. Those who worked for the U.S. Postal Service were among the highest-paid, with an average salary of $52,780 per year. Those who worked for independent couriers and parcel delivery services such as UPS and FedEx earned even more, averaging $58,140 per year.
The job outlook for truck drivers should be good through 2020. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the American economy to add jobs at a rate of 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, jobs for heavy truckers are expected to increase by a rate of 21 percent. Because the job entails long hours and days spent away from home, some companies have difficulty finding enough drivers. Therefore, those seeking employment in the field should be able to find it.
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