How Much Money Does an Owner/Operator Truck Driver Make?

by Michelle Renee; Updated September 26, 2017
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If you're a skilled driver of large vehicles, carry a CDL driver's license and enjoy traveling and long periods on the road, you might enjoy a lucrative career as an owner-operator truck driver. Owner-operators are truck drivers who work independently as contractors, shipping and hauling heavy loads to various locations nationwide. As of June, 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a favorable career outlook for truck driver salespersons, projecting that employment opportunities will rise nine percent between 2008 and 2018.

Broad Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classified owner-operators as "Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers" in its 2010-11 Edition Occupational Outlook Handbook. According to the document, in May of 2008 the median average hourly wage for truckers was $17.92. The lowest 10 percent surveyed earned an hourly wage of $11.63 or less, and the highest earning 10 percent made more than $27.07 per hour. The middle 50 percent of related positions earned between $14.21 and $22.56 an hour. These figures indicate that the national average annual salary for all truck drivers ranged between $29,556 and $56,201 based on a 40-hour work week.

Truck Driver Owner-Operators

The Simply Hired career and salary website provides detailed salary information relevant to owner-operator positions in the trucking industry that are fairly consistent with BLS higher-end salary reports. According to Simply Hired, in 2011 the average national salary for trucking owner-operators is about $58,000. The Indeed website published considerably increased earnings in 2011, estimating that salaries may be as high as $82,000 annually.

Industrial Variances

Your field of industry may have a direct impact on how much you might expect to earn as a truck driver owner-operator. The Bureau of Labor Statistics listed several fields and their correspondent pay rates in its May 2010 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics for Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers. According to the document, some of the lowest paying industries for truck drivers include support activities for road transportation that pays about $15.69 per hour ($32,630 annually) and cement and concrete product manufacturing paying $17.36 per hour ($36,110 annually). The highest paying industry for trucking owner-operators is the U.S. Postal Service where position holders can earn about $25.98 per hour; or $54,040 annually.

Regional Variances

In 2011, statistics show that all positions in the trucking industry -- owner-operators included -- may experience considerable fluctuations in salary -- up to $32,000 annual differences -- depending on where you live. Both BLS and The Trucker's Report career websites provide detailed information regarding regional variances in salary nationwide. According to BLS the annual pay rate for position holders varies between $34,590 in non-metropolitan areas of eastern Texas, to $53,170 in Fairbanks, Arkansas. The Trucker's report provides slightly higher estimates, indicating that salaries may range from $40,000 a year in Hawaii to as high as $68,000 in Mississippi.

About the Author

Michelle Renee is a professional trainer and quality assurance consultant in the career, education and customer service industries, with two decades of experience in food/beverage and event coordinating management. Renee has been published by Lumino and Career Flight as well as various food, education and business publications.

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