I was an over the road truck driver for three years and left it to become an automotive journalist. It is possible to make a living behind the wheel of a rig, but it depends a lot on what you're driving, who you're driving for, and what you're hauling.
Entering any profession, one wonders if it's best to be a jack of all trades or a specialist. I'd recommend looking into a specialty such as delivering big RVs, transporting boats and so on. It also helps if one has a mentor and networks within that specialty.
I see millions of Americans making money from truck driving every day. The typical quote I say is a range of about $32,000 to $55,000 for the first year of driving and from there it can be even more substantial. More experienced, qualified and educated drivers can turn driving into a very lucrative career. One of our former students came to us with limited job skills and was able to start a very successful career in trucking and get his house out of foreclosure.
The substantial shortage of drivers in the industry means companies are recruiting heavily and even competing against each other at schools and training facilities to hire qualified drivers. Many of these companies offer signing bonuses, as well as tuition reimbursement in addition to pay and benefits.
The lifestyle issue doesn't work for some people; it will be harder for people will small children who are the sole providers and can't be gone. However, there are no standards for weeks on and off driving.
We are currently seeing a shift to more regional forms for driving, where drivers are able to be home every night or every weekend. Another former student, a 72 year old woman, obtained a local job where she drives the truck within a 100 mile radius and is able to be home every night.
For those who are business savvy, there are eventually - never recommended for novice drivers - opportunities to buy a truck and make in the upwards of six figures. Many retired truckers turn to training and teaching to continue to work and pay it forward in the industry.
Jeff Clark oversees the training at Harper College's 4-week truck driving program and is General Manager of Eagle Training Services, and has 35 years' experience in the industry.
Even though truck driving doesn't require a degree, it's still a very well-paid job. In fact, it's one of the best paid jobs in America. On average, truck drivers get a little over $45,000 a year, which is not bad, in this economy. But, truck driver's salaries vary from state to state. In some states, such as New York and Mississippi, truck drivers get well over $60,000 a year, while the average truck driver salary in Hawaii and Alaska is about $40,000.
Also, beginner drivers earn much less than more experienced ones. If you are an entry level driver, you can't expect to get more than $35,000 - $40,000 a year. Over time, as you gain experience, your wage will start increasing significantly. A lot of truck drivers who have been in this business for more than 10 years, earn as much as $80,000 a year, which is pretty good money. In addition to that, many truck driving companies are offering dental, medical and other benefits, in efforts to attract more people to come and work for them as there is a huge shortage of reliable truck drivers at the moment. If you are able to hold on to your job for a couple of years, your salary will be quite good and it will provide you with a decent living, but salaries for beginner drivers are not that bad, either.