Is Driving OTR Really Worth It?

by Dennis "Kazoo" Shipman
(Manor, DE)

An over the road truck driver is a truck driver who is typically on the road for two or more weeks at a time. The lucky over the road truck driver can expect to make it home for 1-2 weekends per month for a few hours and be home for a rare holiday.

Does a truck driver salary make being an over the road truck driver worth it?

Truck Driver Salary - Paid By The Mile

An over the road truck driver is paid by the mile, a new driver can expect to get paid .30 cents per mile to upwards of .40 cents per mile.

If you do a rough calculation, it may sound as if as a truck driver can make a decent amount of money. Take the average, .35 cents per mile, though. Multiply that by the national speed limit of 65 mph and you get $21 per hour. $21 per hour is not bad for a truck driver salary.

Unfortunately, the salary of a truck driver is not that simple; nor is it as good as it sounds.

A truck driver can expect to average about 45 mph over the course of a day due to traffic, rest stops, gas stops, tolls, and weigh stations. The 50 mph calculation is for a truck driver who mashes on it, keeps the left door closed, and does not encounter excessive traffic.

A truck driver that has to drive through multiple large cities or who takes extended stops can expect to have a average mph significantly less than 45 mph, regardless of their driving speed.

Doing a simple truck driver salary calculation one may say that a truck driver can drive 10 hours a day or more and that would mean upwards of $210 per day. In reality, truck driver salary is limited by driving regulations.

An over the road truck driver can work for 14 hours per day but only 11 of it can be actual drive time. Another limitation is that a truck driver must take 34 hours off after they have worked 70 hours in one week, this time includes load and drive time.

Once the truck driver takes 34 hours off, they can begin a new work week, and it is termed that they have taken a 34 hour restart.

These truck driver regulations mean that if a driver spends 6 hours a day getting loaded and unloaded (which happens more than it should due to shipper delays and consignee lethargy), they only have 8 hours in a day left to drive.

The other unfortunate setback for a truck driver's salary is that they are not paid any time they are not driving. If a truck driver spends 6 hours per day getting loaded and unloaded, that time is not compensated and, unfairly, unpaid time.

Many companies do offer pay if a driver has to wait an extended amount of time but this does not usually take effect until a driver has sat for more than two hours on his time as well as dime.

Truck Driver Salary - So How Much Do They Make?

The typical over the road truck driver can expect to get paid on average .35 cents per mile and run about 2500-3000 miles per week. The miles that a truck driver can expect to run are often limited not by the driver but by load availability.

Even the most ambitious driver can expect to legally max out at 3500 miles per week and this is only possible with long hauls that offer few and short load and unload times.

To answer the question, the average over the road truck driver can expect to make $875-$1050 gross per week. To make this kind of money, a truck driver can expect to be away from home for most of the month with only 2-4 days spent at home. This leaves a truck driver alone in his truck or at truck stops for the majority of his down time and 34 hour restarts.

In a perfect world, the truck driver would be able to make it home for his 34 hour restarts but due to load demand it is not usually possible.

Is an over the road truck driver salary worth the time away from home? It depends on the driver and family needs. A single truck driver may enjoy the 'big road" and, hence, the travel.

An older truck driver may be able to take his spouse along and essentially travel the country together on an adventure that can hardly be called work.

A young father, however, may find it difficult to balance being an over the road truck driver and being a Dad. So, take your time no matter how difficult the job market before consigning yourself to a career akin to indentured servitude better known as slavery.

Comments for Is Driving OTR Really Worth It?

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Jul 22, 2016
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Nice article (Except) NEW
by: Texassingleshot

Everything in your article genuine and correct. There is just one thing you left out of the article that also impacts driving over the road. The over the road expense from day-to-day living. Let's be honest, you can't live on bologna sandwiches and hot dogs all the time.

Nov 12, 2011
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nothing less than .53 cents per mile NEW
by: Anonymous

Yes, there are leeches out there and they for sure dont pay. I will not look at company that pays less than .53 cents for my driving as I am professional and I am not desparate for work so I go where it pays. Even if I have to relocate. I drive for living not act of desparation.

sharon truthfully

Nov 12, 2011
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Is Driving OTR Really Worth It? NEW
by: Dennis Shipman

I love trucking as much if not more than anyone, Hervy. But the industry is fill of leeches and, as such, sucks. Younger driver tend to romanticize the industry, but us that know it have an obligation to debunk the myths, which have trucking looking like a better prospect than anything out there. It may have been like that prior to deregulation when I started driving as a teenager. But has not been that way for a very long tme. And all these prospective divers with criminal record histories, it is only going to get worst with these companies looking for drivers with sqeaky clean backgrounds, which means no felony convictions, period. We need to clearly articulate that to these drivers because many of them come on this board, and painfully share their blemishes hoping we can help'em find employment in the industry. I always direct 'em to Fleetdirectory as opposed to the big four companies. 10-4?

Nov 12, 2011
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Driving Over The Road NEW
by: Hervy

Thanks for that honest insight about the industry. I am sure it opened a lot of people.

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