Can You Make a Good Living as a Truck Driver?

truck driver salary 2023

There are many viable career options in the truck driving industry, and those who pursue it can earn a good salary. Drivers often receive additional compensation, including health benefits, retirement savings plans, and more. Many employers also offer bonuses for safe driving or completing on-time deliveries.

Some truck drivers, particularly those who work for large trucking companies and have experience hauling high-value cargo, can earn significantly more. With experience and some coursework, truckers can even advance into positions such as dispatchers or fleet managers, where they would earn even higher salaries.

On Your Own

Some truck drivers choose to work as independent contractors or owner-operators, which can provide the opportunity for even higher earnings, but also carries the risk of a lower steady income and higher costs for operating their own truck.

The Long and Winding Road

Being a truck driver has its challenges, including:

  • Extended hours: Truck drivers often spend long hours on the road, which can be physically and mentally demanding.
  • Time away from home: Truck drivers can be away for days or even weeks, which can be difficult for those with families or other obligations.
  • Physical demands: Driving a truck for long hours can be physically demanding, and the job requires a certain level of physical fitness.
  • Isolation: Being on the road for extended periods can be lonely, and truck drivers may not interact much with others during their workdays.

However, for those who enjoy being on the road and have the discipline and work ethic to succeed as a truck driver, it can be a rewarding career with the potential for a good standard of living.

What are the Highest Paid Truck Driving Jobs?

The salary of a truck driver can vary depending on several factors, including the type of truck they drive, their level of experience, the company they work for, and the region in which they work. On average, a truck driver in the United States can make anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 per year. However, some truck drivers, particularly those who drive long distances or specialize in hauling hazardous materials, can earn over $100,000 per year.

Here are some of the highest-paying truck driving jobs based on 2023 salary reporting from

Tanker Truck Driver

Tanker truck drivers transport liquids and gases such as fuel, oil, and chemicals. They are among the highest-paid truck drivers due to the hazardous nature of the materials they transport and the specialized training required to handle them. The average annual pay for a Tanker Truck Driver in the United States is $58,187, approximately $27.97 an hour. Salary range: $32,000-$92,000 per year.

Hazmat Truck Driver

Hazmat truck drivers transport hazardous materials such as radioactive materials, explosives, and flammable liquids. Due to the dangerous nature of these materials, hazmat truck drivers must undergo specialized training and be certified to handle them. The average annual pay for a Hazmat Truck Driver in the United States is $55,400, approximately $26.63 an hour. Salary range: $46,500-$72,000 per year.

Ice Road Truck Driver

Ice Road truck drivers work in extremely cold and harsh conditions, transporting goods across frozen lakes and rivers in northern Canada and Alaska. They are highly skilled and experienced drivers who can handle challenging driving conditions. The average annual pay for an Ice Road Truck Driver in the United States is $66,843, approximately $32.14 an hour. Salary range: $20,00-$102,000 per year.

Oversized Load Truck Driver

Oversized load truck drivers are responsible for transporting wide, large, and heavy loads, such as construction equipment and wind turbines. These drivers must have specialized training and experience handling these large loads and are often paid a premium for their skills. The average annual pay for an Oversize Load Driver in the United States is $67,325, approximately $32.37 an hour. Salary range: $23,500-$144,500 per year.


The amount that owner-operator truck drivers can make varies depending on several factors, such as their experience, the type of cargo they are hauling, the distance they are covering, and the current state of the trucking industry. An owner-operator truck driver can earn anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 annually. However, it’s important to note that these earnings are not guaranteed and can fluctuate based on market conditions and the driver’s ability to secure consistent, high-paying loads.

In addition to their base earnings, owner-operators can earn additional income through fuel surcharges, detention pay, and other bonuses. However, it’s also important to consider the expenses associated with operating a truck, such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and other costs. These expenses can add up quickly and significantly impact an owner-operator’s overall earnings.

Is there a shortage of truck drivers in the United States?

Yes, there is currently a shortage of truck drivers in the United States and many other countries. The trucking industry faces several challenges that have contributed to the deficit, including an aging workforce, a lack of interest from younger generations in pursuing careers as truck drivers, and increased regulations and costs.

The shortage of truck drivers has led to increased demand for drivers, which has, in turn, led to higher salaries and better benefits for those pursuing a career in trucking. However, it has also resulted in longer wait times for shipments and increased shipping costs, which are passed on to consumers.

To address the shortage of truck drivers, many trucking companies have started to offer more competitive compensation packages, flexible schedules, and better working conditions to attract and retain drivers. The industry is also working to make trucking a more attractive career choice for younger people and to promote the benefits of a career in trucking to a broader audience.

Do I need a special license to drive a truck?

No college degree is necessary to drive a truck, although a high school diploma or GED is typically recommended. Before February 7, 2022, it was possible to get a CDL license without having to attend trucking school. However, starting February 7, 2022, the new ELDT (Entry-Level Driver Training) federal requirements came into effect, requiring you to pass minimum training standards at a registered school or training provider across the country.

A CDL is required to operate a commercial vehicle because it is more complex and requires a higher level of skill and training than a personal vehicle. Obtaining a CDL involves passing a written test and a road skills test, as well as meeting other state-specific requirements. The type of CDL you need will depend on the weight and style of vehicle you plan to operate. A CDL is issued by the state and is governed by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.

Some jobs may require certain specific certifications, such as a doubles or triples endorsement, which authorizes you to drive a semi-truck with multiple trailers attached, or a HAZMAT endorsement which allows you to drive hazardous materials. Many companies will also have training programs specific to their company that you need to pass to fill the position. While every job may vary, these are some basic education requirements you may face.

The cost of obtaining a CDL can range dramatically, varying from school to school and state to state. However, on average, it typically falls between $3,000-$10,000.

Types of Trucks That Require a Driver to Have a CDL License

As a truck driver, you can drive various kinds of trucks depending on your qualifications, experience, and cargo type. Some of the most common types of trucks that truck drivers operate include:


These are the large semi-trucks you often see on highways, used to transport goods over long distances. Tractor trailers can come in a variety of sizes, with the most common being 53-foot trailers.

Box trucks

These are smaller delivery trucks, often used for local deliveries or moving goods within a city or metropolitan area.

Tanker trucks

These trucks transport liquids, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and chemicals. Tanker truck drivers need specialized training to handle the dangerous and potentially hazardous materials they transport.

Flatbed trucks

These trucks have an open flat deck to transport cargo that cannot be enclosed, such as building materials, heavy equipment, and machinery.

Refrigerated trucks

These trucks have temperature-controlled trailers used to transport perishable goods, such as food and pharmaceuticals, that need to be kept at a specific temperature.

Dump trucks

These trucks have a hydraulic system to unload heavy cargo, such as dirt, gravel, and construction materials.

Is Trucking Worth it in 2023?

Whether or not a career in truck driving is worth it depends on an individual’s circumstances, goals, and preferences. Here are some factors to consider:

Pay: The compensation for truck drivers can vary widely, but on average, it can be a good-paying job, particularly for those with experience.

Lifestyle: Truck driving can be physically demanding and requires long hours on the road, often away from home. It can also be challenging to maintain a work-life balance.

Independence: For some people, the freedom and independence of being on the road and traveling to different places can be a significant draw of truck driving.

Job security: The trucking industry is critical to the economy, and demand for truck drivers is expected to remain high, providing job security for those in the field.

Skills and training: Getting a CDL can be a significant investment of time and money, but it can also provide valuable skills and experience for those who want to pursue a career in trucking.

Industries That Rely on Trucking

The trucking industry is a crucial component of many industries, and truck drivers are needed to transport a wide range of goods and products. Some of the industries that rely heavily on trucking include:

Retail and e-commerce: With the rise of online shopping and the growing popularity of home delivery, the retail and e-commerce industries are among the largest consumers of trucking services.

Manufacturing: Many manufactured goods, such as machinery, electronics, and automotive components, are transported by truck from factories to distribution centers and retail locations.

Construction: The construction industry relies on trucking to transport building materials, equipment, and supplies to job sites.

Agriculture: Agricultural products, such as grain, livestock, and produce, are transported by truck from farms to processing plants and marketplaces.

Energy: The energy industry, including oil and gas, relies on trucking to transport fuel, equipment, and supplies to drilling sites and refineries.

Healthcare: The healthcare industry relies on trucking to transport medical supplies, equipment, and medications to hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies.

What Trends, Changes, and Concerns to Watch in 2023 for Trucking

Here are some trends and changes that are likely to impact the trucking industry in 2023 and beyond:

Increased demand: The growing economy and expanding e-commerce sector are expected to continue driving trucking service demand. This will likely result in increased shipping volumes and higher demand for truck drivers.

Technological advancements: The trucking industry is expected to continue to adopt new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, telematics, and data analytics, to improve efficiency, safety, and customer service.

Regulatory changes: New regulations, such as electronic logging device (ELD) mandates and hours-of-service rules, are expected to continue to impact the trucking industry. The industry will also likely face increased pressure from regulators and the public to reduce emissions and improve safety.

Labor shortages: The shortage of truck drivers is expected to persist, and many trucking companies will likely face challenges in finding and retaining drivers. This may lead to increased competition for drivers and higher salaries and benefits.

Increased competition: The trucking industry is highly competitive, and new entrants, such as Amazon and other e-commerce companies, are expected to continue to impact the market. This is likely to lead to increased competition and pressure on pricing.

State of the economy: Recession concerns continue to loom in 2023. During a recession, the overall demand for goods decreases, leading to a reduction in the need for trucking services. With lower demand for goods, there may be fewer shipments, causing freight volume to decline. This can result in reduced revenue for trucking companies, as they may have to lower their prices to remain competitive.

Companies may choose to delay or cancel their capital expenditures, such as purchasing new trucks or upgrading their fleets, leading to a slowdown in the sales of trucks and related equipment. This can also negatively impact trucking companies and the wider industry.

During a recession, some businesses may go out of business, reducing demand for trucking services. This can result in excess capacity in the trucking industry, leading to increased competition and lower profit margins for trucking companies.

Overall, a recession can significantly impact the trucking industry, leading to reduced demand for trucking services, increased competition, and lower profit margins.

Trucking Rolls on

The trucking industry plays a critical role in the economy and faces several challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. It will be important for trucking companies to adapt to changing market conditions and to adopt new technologies and business practices to remain competitive and successful.

Overall, truckers can make a good living if they are willing to work hard and put in long hours on the road. This profession offers opportunities for advancement, competitive salaries, and other benefits that can make it a desirable career option for those interested in getting into the transportation sector.