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How Much Does an Owner-Operator Truck Driver Make?

Men walking to semi truck


The average base salary for a truck driver in the US is $61,356 per year. Most drivers begin their careers working for a trucking company. Once you’ve gained some experience, you can opt to become a self-employed owner-operator. So, how much does a owner-operator truck driver make vs. team and solo company drivers? In the guide below from International Used Truck Centers, we’ll look at how much semi truck drivers make by location, experience, and operating mode.

How Much Can a Trucker Make?

How much do semi truck drivers make a year? If you’re thinking of entering the profession, salary is definitely going to be one of your top priorities. Unlike the set salary of most professions, truck drivers earn money by the mile. Truck driver salary also depends on a number of other factors. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Team Company Driving vs. Solo Driving — Team company drivers make runs together, reducing the need to stop and sleep between shifts. On the other hand, solo drivers must make more frequent stops to sleep between shifts. 
  • Owner-Operators — How much does a owner-operator truck driver make? Self-employed drivers generally earn a higher gross salary, but must also cover operating expenses.
  • OTR vs. Local Routes — The further you’re willing to drive, the more you can make. OTR (or “over the road”) truck drivers spend weeks at a time on the road, and are able to command a higher salary than regional or local drivers. However, local driving has its own perks: you’ll be home in time for dinner.
  • Experience — Even drivers with less than one year of experience make an average yearly salary of $57,611. With more than a decade of experience, yearly salaries can reach $70K and above.
  • Location — Some cities and regions pay drivers more than others. So how much can a trucker make in your state? In the following section, we’ll look at average truck driver salaries across the country.

How Much Do Semi Truck Drivers Make in the US?

Just how much do semi truck drivers make a year? Location is a big part of the equation. As you might expect, areas with lots of open roadway will bring in a bigger paycheck. South Dakota is the most lucrative state for truck drivers, with an average salary 25% above the national average. North Dakota and Nebraska are next with +18% and +16%, respectively. Drivers earn also significantly more than average in Kansas, Montana, Idaho, and Iowa. On the other hand, average salary is less than average in Maine, New Hampshire, Alabama, Ohio, and Indiana. You’ll also see some variation by city. Check out the top eight US cities for truck drivers, below:

  • Charlotte, NC — $74,444
  • Salt lake City, UT — $73,030
  • Indianapolis, IN — $72,261
  • Phoenix, AZ — $69,118
  • Omaha, NE — $68,322
  • Dallas, TX — $60,789
  • Houston, TX — $60,734
  • Chattanooga, TN — $60,508 

Should You Become an Owner-Operator Truck Driver?

How much does a owner-operator truck driver make in terms of take-home pay? Owner-operator truckers earn +47.83% more than the average base salary, but you’ll need to factor in overhead costs. If you’re willing to take on the added responsibility, running your own operation can be uniquely satisfying. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons:

  • No Middle Man — Owner-operators contract directly with companies and earn a greater rate-per-mile.
  • Build a Fleet — If business goes well, you’ll be able to hire your own fleet of drivers.
  • Choose Your Clients — Owner-operators have full control over who they haul for. Work as a freelance driver, or dedicate your services to one customer or product.
  • Higher Insurance Rates — A smaller business size means higher rates, which means you’ll need to charge more to balance the cost.

Shop Used International Trucks Today!

Looking for more info about how much can a trucker make? Our knowledgeable team is here to answer your questions — and find the very best truck for your routes. Browse our inventory of high-quality used Kenworth, Peterbilt, and International trucks for sale near you. Contact us to see how you can save with International Used Truck Centers Hot Buys, and request a quote today!

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