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In the trucking industry, there are many career opportunities to choose from, with varying earning potential for each. Of course, like any other job, pay tends to depend on experience. But trucking also weighs in factors like the type of freight you can carry, your willingness to risks, and the distance you’re open to traveling when determining your take-home pay. As a trucker, you can move your career in many different directions, but which is right for you? In this blog post, we uncover some common career options within the field, as well as the average salary for each, so you can decide.

What is a company truck driver?

Company truck drivers work for carrier companies and run under their authority instead of operating independently. Since company drivers are employees, they sometimes have the option of buying company health insurance and may be eligible for paid vacation time. The specifics of these benefits depend on what the trucking company offers its employees. 

Company truck driver expenses include food, showers, and phone calls, which are sometimes paid per diem by the employer. This per diem amount is usually added to their weekly paycheck, so the driver pays out of pocket and their employer reimburses them. 

Typically, what you can earn as a company driver is limited. You have less independence and do not choose your schedule or the loads you haul. But, there is also less risk compared to other trucking careers. For example, the carrier company is responsible for overhead costs like vehicle maintenance, insurance, repairs, and fuel. 

Is being a company driver right for you? If you don’t want to deal with the ins and outs of running a trucking business, like buying or leasing a truck or booking loads, being a company driver may be the right fit. Being a company driver offers the security of a steady paycheck without the hassle of running a business. Plus, starting as a company driver is a great way to gain more experience if you’re new to the trucking industry.

Company truck driver salaries

Company drivers are generally paid by the hour if they drive locally or by the mile if they drive over the road. 

According to Payscale.com, the average company truck driver’s salary is $20.68 per hour for a driver with less than one year of experience. Some trucking companies provide a guaranteed weekly base pay to cover breakdowns and wait times that may affect your earnings. There is potential to earn more by taking on more risks and responsibilities. This may mean getting more endorsements on your license that allows for the delivery of specialty freight, such as moving hazmat materials, which yield higher pay. Your location also plays a factor in how much you can get paid. 

What is an independent truck driver?

Independent truck drivers are not legally employed by any one carrier company. Because independent drivers don’t have an employer, they are also sometimes called independent contractors. Independent truck drivers lease a vehicle from a carrier and operate under the carrier’s authority. 

One big difference between independent truck drivers and company drivers is that independent truck drivers have more flexibility in the jobs they choose. For example, independent truckers can choose their hours and work with other trucking companies to make more money or gain experience with different loads. Additionally, because they lease their vehicle, independent truckers have the benefit of choosing a vehicle that is comfortable and works for them. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind as an independent trucker. For instance, it is essential to lease from a company you are comfortable with as your lender. You have to be able to trust that the lender you are working for will provide you with enough business to make a profit after paying your lease. 

Independent truck driver salaries

The salary of an independent truck driver depends on your location. As in many other jobs, the state you reside in affects your average earnings. Nationally, independent truckers make an average of $95,084 a year. Other factors, like, your skill level and years of experience, can also affect how much you are paid. If you have speciality skills and a good amount of experience, you can expect to be paid more as an independent trucker.

What is an owner-operator?

Like independent drivers, owner-operators can be contractors, but unlike independent truckers, owner-operators run under their own authority. Your trucking or MC authority is a license every carrier company needs to move freight in the United States. 

Owner-operators enjoy higher earning potential than both company drivers and independent truckers. This is because the owner-operator keeps all the revenue from each load. Additionally, owner-operators can set their own schedule instead of being forced to dispatch. If they own their truck, they can customize it how they like. They can choose the loads they want to move. However, they must book enough profitable loads to cover expenses and make a living.

Unlike an independent or company truck driver, owner-operators have additional expenses like insurance, taxes, and equipment expenses. As an owner-operator, you will also be responsible for finding your own loads and negotiating rates. The owner-operator carries all of the risks and responsibilities of business ownership. 

Owner-operators trucker salaries

According to Indeed.com, the average owner-operator salary is about $251,796 annually. Owner-operators have overhead expenses that include everything from purchasing or leasing your truck to fuel costs, insurance, and, of course, taxes. The key to high profits is to learn how to maximize your revenue while minimizing your expenses. 

What is a fleet owner?

Fleet owners may or may not have truck driving experience, but they purchase trucks and hire drivers to earn a living. The biggest difference between a fleet owner and an owner-operator is that the fleet owner does not always operate a vehicle. Anyone can be a fleet owner, but the biggest hurdle for small fleet owners is recruiting and retaining drivers for their trucks. Finding trustworthy and productive drivers for fleet owners is a top priority and greatly impacts how profitable the business can be.

Fleet owners salaries

Typically, fleet owners make an average of $500 to $2000 per truck per week. However, seasonal trends, driver performance, and truck maintenance can influence how much they can make. Like owner-operators, fleet owners can increase their potential earnings by lowering expenses and discovering ways to get more revenue out of each load. 

Earn more with SmartHop

The trucking industry is full of opportunities. However, earning more money means finding the right ways to increase your income while lowering your expenses. At SmartHop, we can help you build out long-term load strategies while giving you complete control of the loads you book. Try SmartHop free for one week and find out for yourself.

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