Wondering how to boost your income? In the world of truck driving, there are numerous paths to increase your earnings if you know where to focus your... drive, as it were. Through strategic planning and being open to technology, you can certainly make higher income growth more attainable.
Unlike some industries, truck drivers have a significant say in their career path. Given the demanding nature of the job, drivers naturally seek higher pay. However, compensation in the trucking industry can vary widely due to various factors.
In this article, we’ll explore several strategies for drivers to enhance their earnings. Whether you’re part of a company’s fleet or an owner-operator aiming to boost profits, here are steps to maximize your income in the trucking field.
1. CDL Training
Numerous truck driving positions are available in the job market that do not require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). However, the absence of this license can significantly limit job options and income potential. Completing the CDL process can potentially result in earning 20% to 50% more annually compared to a driver without this credential.
When embarking on the journey to obtain your CDL, it’s crucial to thoroughly assess the benefits and post-graduation job placement options offered by your training school. While some companies hire drivers immediately after training, others require 1-2 years of post-training driving experience before considering employment. This is often due to insurance costs and ensuring a driver’s ability to perform the job safely and competently. Obtaining your CDL is the first step towards higher earnings, but there are additional strategies to enhance your income.
2. Adapt to Market Demands
The income tied to your trucking assignments can be significantly impacted by market demands. Given the ever-evolving nature of the market, it’s imperative to stay well-informed about changing requirements and trends within the trucking industry. This awareness enables you to adapt swiftly, leverage emerging patterns, enhance your competitiveness, and ultimately increase your earnings.
Furthermore, it’s essential to be proactive in recognizing your own shortcomings, allowing you to take prompt corrective action and bolster those areas. Visiting business and trade events associated with the industry also proves helpful as it offers networking, brand promotion, and keeps you abreast of the latest developments in the trucking sector.
3. Do Your Research
As with anything, conducting thorough research is key to uncovering the best opportunities for maximizing your earning capabilities. For instance, when evaluating job options, compare payment structures such as pay per mile versus pay per hour.
Having a clear understanding of your preferences beforehand enables you to negotiate better compensation when offered specific routes. Additionally, researching the industries you aspire to work for will provide insight into your earning potential. Larger companies with higher employment rates, like Buchanan Hauling and Rigging, typically offer higher compensation for drivers.
Also consider the possibility of becoming a lease driver or an owner-operator, which allows you to be your own boss and potentially earn more. However, it’s crucial to carefully manage your finances and prioritize expenses such as insurance, maintenance, and fuel to ensure profitability. (We will look at this later in the blog) Unlike working for a company, as an owner-operator, you’ll be responsible for covering these, and other costs independently. Be sure to ask questions, because some places, like Buchanan Hauling, will offer a way for you to use their trucking insurance, which may be a cheaper premium than you could get on your own, and in turn, increase your income level.
4. Right Region, Right State
Across the 50 states, average truck driver salaries vary significantly. Unsurprisingly, drivers in certain states earn thousands of dollars more annually compared to others, but this can also be tied to the cost of living in those states For instance, Texas boasts an average annual truck driver wage of $45,000 to $70,000 annually as of 2021, while Mississippi only offers $40,000 to $55,000 per year. You can explore the average salaries of each state to identify potential opportunities.
Although moving to a new state can be challenging, conducting thorough research on factors such as state culture, suitable cities for work, and cost of living is essential. Thanks to the internet, you can apply for positions in your desired state without leaving your current location, making the transition easier if you have a job lined up. Plus if you have done your research, you know what companies may have terminals in multiple states. Buchanan Hauling and Rigging, for example, has terminals in Indiana, Arizona, and Texas, but has a footprint that extends across the entire United States, Canada, and Mexico.
5. Strategize - Drive Smarter, Not Longer
Plan your routes in advance and make multiple trips to be more strategic in your route planning. Understanding your cost per mile is crucial for estimating your profits accurately, especially if you are considering being an owner-operator. Reducing your cost per mile is an easy way to control costs and increase your earnings.
Strategic planning also enables you to select higher-paying loads based on your knowledge of the routes. It also allows you to avoid deadhead miles. Driving empty increases costs without generating revenue. Seeking backhaul loads for your return trips, even if they don’t pay as well as outbound trips, will help generate income when returning home.
Fuel can be another major expense, especially for owner-operators. Join a fuel card program for discounts, plan efficient routes, and choose cost-effective fuel stops to save on fuel costs. Some companies, like Buchanan Hauling and Rigging, offer 100% fuel surcharge and fuel card discounts for owner-operators to help fight the cost of fuel.
6. The Right Trucking Company for You
It’s no secret that different trucking companies offer varying wages to their drivers. To determine a company’s pay scale, engage with driver recruiters and inquire about their compensation packages. However, a conversation with a recruiter should never eliminate the need for you to do your own research. There are multiple online platforms available for checking a company’s payment structure and how it treats its drivers.
Even if you have obtained your CDL through a company-sponsored school that guarantees you a position after graduation, it is still advisable to research and find the most suitable company. Take the time to research and apply to companies that prioritize their drivers’ well-being and safety. Companies, like Buchanan Hauling and Rigging live by the motto of “Setting the Standard for Safety, One Mile at a Time”, and is owned and operated by a former trucker.
Fortunately, if you are a driver with a clean record, you have a significant say in where you work, because discovering a suitable company to collaborate with is a crucial task.
7. Experience Pays
There is no way around it, and it requires time and paying your dues, but experience still has a big impact on what drivers make. By accumulating experience as a truck driver, you create more driving opportunities for yourself and increase the potential for obtaining additional CDL endorsements. It all boils down to the time you invest in the profession. Each year spent behind the wheel contributes to an increase in your earnings. The longer you drive and the more experience you build, the greater your earning potential becomes.
Carriers are willing to pay experienced drivers more due to rising insurance premiums and the increase in legal costs. By hiring drivers with a clean driving record and a substantial amount of experience, carriers can mitigate these costs.
As it is, many job postings require a minimum number of years of experience, which results in higher pay for experienced drivers. However, If you are a new driver dissatisfied with your current earnings, take solace in the fact that you can follow the other tips to quickly help increase your income.
8. Adding Endorsements
In any profession, having more skills makes you more valuable to employers. Obtaining different endorsements can demonstrate your enhanced expertise compared to other drivers. CDL drivers have various options for endorsements, each with their own set of requirements. By adding endorsements like Hazardous Materials, Tanker, and Double and Triple Trailer, drivers can potentially increase their income in different states. If you choose to obtain a hazardous materials endorsement, it is important to note that different classes of endorsements have different qualifications for hauling various types of loads.
For instance, acquiring a double/triple endorsement allows drivers to transport significantly more freight while spending the same amount of time as they would with a single trailer. Similarly, a HAZMAT endorsement provides access to specialized companies that transport flammable or hazardous materials.
9. Specialized Routes
Specialized routes such as ice road trucking, coal mine transportation, oversized load driving, and HAZMAT hauling have the potential to provide more lucrative salaries. The reason behind this is the heightened level of risk associated with these routes. In order to be eligible for these highly rewarding opportunities, individuals must demonstrate unwavering commitment and maintain a pristine driving record spanning a minimum of five years.
These routes may also require additional endorsements mentioned in the previous point. Do your research and know what you are getting yourself into.
10. Capitalize on Available Bonuses
Be aware of all the bonuses offered by your carrier and consistently strive to achieve them.
- Earn a bonus for fuel efficiency by strategically planning your trips and using proper driving techniques.
- Qualify for a safety bonus by demonstrating a commitment to safety and following rules.
- Meeting delivery deadlines consistently may make you eligible for an on-time delivery bonus.
11. Protect and Maintain Your Reputation
While experience is undeniably important for increasing earnings, your reputation is equally crucial. Demonstrating a clean record, effective time management, and an exceptional safety track record are paramount when building your reputation. You never know when you may encounter a former dispatcher or fleet manager when seeking new job opportunities.
By showcasing your unwavering commitment to outstanding performance, more companies will be inclined to hire and retain your services. This, in turn, opens doors to more lucrative opportunities and higher rates.
Maintaining positive relationships with employers, brokers, and companies also contributes to your overall reputation. By leaving a lasting impression, you create opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising, further boosting your earning potential.
12. Do Not Fear Technology
Staying up to date with the latest technological advancements is essential for increasing your income. In our ever-changing world, technology plays a significant role, and being knowledgeable in this area can lead to higher earnings. As technology continues to progress, electronic logbooks and other options become available, creating additional opportunities for increased earnings.
13. Be an Owner-Operator
Owner-operators both own and operate the trucks they drive. While they usually bear all expenses, such as insurance, fuel, and maintenance, owner-operators typically earn significantly more than company drivers. You will also want to look closely at the companies you partner with. Businesses like Buchanan Hauling offer additional incentives to owner-operators like no forced dispatch, no charge for trailers, hauling consistent freight, being home weekends, 100% fuel surcharge with fuel card discounts, and safety bonuses.
It is important to note, however, that without proper financial management, trucking expenses can quickly consume your yearly earnings. To thrive as an owner-operator, a comprehensive trucking business plan is necessary.
Something you will want to ensure you do, if you are an owner-operator, is to build positive relationships with reliable brokers. Partnering with brokers you can trust is vital in the trucking and logistics industry. Companies like Buchanan Logistics make Integrity and honesty a central value they teach all of their brokers. It is also not uncommon for brokers to return to a trusted driver. When there is a good relationship, and those drivers are willing to work hard or sometimes lower-paying loads in a pinch, they can also see rewards with better-paying gigs from the same broker later.
Boosting your earnings can be achieved by implementing a highly effective strategy – forming a team. Numerous companies are actively on the lookout for team drivers as having two drivers allows for a greater distance coverage on the road. By increasing the amount of time spent driving, you consequently increase your earnings. Consider this perspective: when you are sleeping, you are not driving. However, with a team member, one individual can rest while the other takes charge of the wheel, resulting in a more efficient delivery process.
When searching for a co-driver, it is crucial to find someone compatible with whom you can spend extended periods in the cabin. Discovering the right partner not only enhances job performance but also leads to higher earnings.
15. Be a Trainer
To increase your income, contemplate the opportunity to become a trainer. During times when you’re not actively driving or when road conditions prevent you from doing so, taking on a role as an instructor for aspiring truck drivers can be highly advantageous. You can provide training either in a traditional classroom setting or in-cab for practical experience.
Numerous trucking companies offer incentives such as bonuses when a trainee successfully passes their tests, obtains a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and subsequently joins the workforce. For instance, enterprises like Buchanan Hauling go a step further by operating a Cargo Securement Academy, which delivers hands-on training to ensure the safety of both drivers and their cargo.
As illustrated, the potential for increased earnings is readily available. It merely demands dedication and a commitment to delivering excellence, with the remaining pieces falling into their rightful spots. The potential for earnings knows virtually no bounds, contingent solely upon the time and energy you’re prepared to dedicate to your profession.
By adhering to these guidelines, you can elevate your income and bolster your profitability as a company truck driver or owner-operator in the trucking sector. Leveraging technology and establishing solid partnerships with trustworthy logistics organizations, like Buchanan Logistics, can guide you through the competitive freight market.
If you’re in pursuit of a high-paying trucking opportunity that aligns with your goals and values, consider driving for Buchanan Hauling and Rigging.