Six Figures as a Truck Driver: Three Tips Revealed

a white flat bed semi truck driving down the highway carrying a load of steel.

Looking to make six figures as a truck driver?  

Are you looking for a new and lucrative career? Have you ever considered becoming a truck driver? It may surprise you to learn that many truck drivers make six figures annually. In this article, we will discuss the steps you need to take to make a good living as a truck driver. We will also cover the benefits of this career path and how to get started in the industry. So if you’re ready to start making some real money, keep reading!

My name is Andrew Winkler and I know how it feels to be driven too far, which is why I’m giving you the truth about trucking so you can have both your family and your career. As the general manager for a Best Fleets to Drive For carrier, I’m going to give you the truth about trucking.

In this article, I will give you three tips to make six figures as a truck driver. Without further ado, let’s get started so you can make some real money!

Make More Money Trucking

a black semi cab with a white trailer driving down the highway with brown farm fields behind it

Did you know that it’s possible to make six figures as a truck driver? I’m here to tell you how. But first, let me relate some things drivers experience on the home front. For instance, when I was still a student driver and newly solo, I would take the truck home with me. Even though I knew I needed to leave early.

I was constantly battling with myself trying to leave the house on time so I wouldn’t be late for my delivery, but spend as much time with my wife since I didn’t know when I’d see her again. It felt like every time, no matter how early I left, it wasn’t enough. So I would often find ways to delay my departure even more, whether that be in the evening or early morning hours.

I was pulling myself in an emotional direction that I knew wasn’t the right thing to do. What I learned from this experience is if you leave on time as you’re supposed, you’ll actually end up getting home earlier by the end of the week.

So it’s not that you lose the time, but I think about the risks I took as a truck driver by leaving it to in the morning or whatever that was. When you think about how you’re going to earn the money and make the most money for your family, your spouse and your kids really need to be on board with you. There needs to be an understanding between you and your wife or your husband, whatever it may be, that, hey, we want you to come home at the end of the week, too.

The Last Question You Should Ask

a white semi-truck trailer driving down the highway with the sun setting behind it.

So let’s just agree that you’re going to get out of the house on time, go out, and do your job. You can focus on work all week long so you can return home safely at the end of the week to family. So tip number one, as many future drivers want to know– What is the pay?

And the first question out of their mouth all the time is, what’s your cents per mile? The gross pay for the week is much more important than how many miles you’ll be paid for. What can you provide me? Because if all you’re worried about is per mile, I could potentially pay you 60, 65, or even $0.75 a mile.

But if I don’t give you any miles as the truck carrier, then that’s still all equal to zero pay. So let’s not focus so much on the cents per mile as we do the gross pay, because what really matters is what gets deposited in your bank account on Fridays.

Am I right or right? So beyond that, you think about the driving activity that you do, which is the mileage pay. But in most companies, there’s also other money there. When you think about the activity, pay for what you do.

Maybe you’re a reefer van guy. Maybe there are bumpers or stop-offs or something like that. If you’re a flatbed driver, a lot of your income can come from that activity pay. You think about the tarps and the straps and those types of things that flatbed drivers have to do.

Yes, cents per mile is a good portion of it, but it’s certainly not the whole picture. So $100,000 is the income goal. And we know that drivers were worried that drivers think, man, what do I need to do to get that $100,000 a year? Does that mean I have to drive on the road all the time? Seeing my family is more important than anything, and I’m here to tell you it’s nothing like that at all.

Time At Home

At Chief Carriers, we target 75 days a year for our truck drivers to be at home. So if we were to take the calendar year and 365 days and subtract the 75 days that you’re going to be at home, we come up with roughly 290 working days throughout the year.

Therefore, if we take the $100,000 and divide it by 290, we end up with about $350 a day. That’s your goal number. You need to make that-$350 daily while driving a truck.

So, what you’re really focused on now is earning money from mileage pay, right? No, we already discussed that a bit. A good portion of your earnings will come from driving up and down the road. But we all know there are going to be times when you have to load and unload merchandise which takes extra time. Maybe there’s even bad weather involved sometimes.

You’re going to experience unexpected occurrences while driving that will prevent you from completing the desired number of miles every day. Working 42 weeks out of the year, we aim to make about $2,350 a week as a company truck driver.

So, to summarize, it really matters how much money is in your account by the end of each workweek. The goal is $2,350 a week.

That sounds like a lot when you start dividing, thinking about how many miles I need at 60, $0.65 a mile, whatever your rate may be to hit that 2350, it almost seems a little unrealistic.

But remember, not all our pay comes from just the driving miles. There are other ways to increase your payment on Fridays. Keep reading about earning six figures as a truck driver.

Incentive Programs For Truckers

If you’re a reefer van guy, there might be a Lumpur’s or unloading or stops. If you’re a flatbed driver, there’s additional pay for the tarps and the chains and all the things you have to do with your activity pay.

So when you subtract that and you understand that your mileage probably makes up about 80% of your total gross pay and the other 20% comes from other activities, then all of a sudden it becomes more realistic.

So you don’t have to drive mega miles to hit this number That’s $2350 in your bank account every single week.

The second tip is to look into your company’s incentive programs. Most companies offer these, and they often give base programs for the average driver. Right?

You will receive a base pay of cents per mile. In addition, your company may offer bonuses for safety, fuel efficiency, referrals, training, and mentorship. Trust me, it all adds up.

There are probably a lot of different things. They’ve had to get creative. We’ve had to do that as companies to figure out how to continually drive and bump a driver’s pay. So my question to you is, are you taking advantage of those extra truck driver income opportunities? The best truck drivers know how to do that.

The best truck drivers are focused on that. And again, when you understand that the mileage makes up a percentage, but these incentives, whether they’re paid monthly or quarterly get in your bank account as well.

By failing to take advantage of every company-offered benefit related to truck driver pay, you’re leaving money on the table. When it comes to incentive pay for our professional drivers who are meeting and exceeding today’s high expectations, they know what needs to be done in order to receive that compensation. They know what questions to ask!

Not only are these drivers hitting their safety bonuses, but they’re also achieving the fuel bonuses quarterly. Furthermore, we evaluate all company progress at the quarter’s end with specific standards that each driver must meet.

Truck driver incentive programs are usually only given to the best drivers in a company. If you want to participate, understand that it’s not easy money.

From a driver’s perspective, it can be frustrating not to earn the extra incentive pay. If you don’t receive the payout, it’s easy to assume that companies never actually hand out those rewards. That belief couldn’t be further from the truth. We make sure to give something extra to our top performers so they feel appreciated for their excellent work ethic and skills.

So that’s really the design behind the incentive programs. If you want to be a top performer in your company, if you want to be recognized within your company as doing a great job, you need to focus on these things. And if you miss a quarter, so what? Don’t get disturbed. It’s still there. You can rebound and get it the next quarter. Don’t give up on that stuff. Don’t discount the program or think that, oh, it’s just too hard to hit the numbers or I’ve heard from drivers before where they talk about companies putting out those incentives, but they’re not attainable at all. They are attainable. You just have to focus on it and know what you’re doing there.

Learn From Veteran Drivers 

Tip number three is really about what the best truck drivers already know but first I have a story to share with you.

When I joined my current company, one of my goals was to help our drivers earn six figures for the first time.

Company drivers are worth $100,000 or more to me. I believe that it is the kind of job and the industry has gradually been getting there. I’m pleased to see that some companies pay their truck drivers more than $100,000 a year.

Professional drivers are definitely worth the investment. Our company has a program where I review their performance on a six-week rolling average. This allows me to see how much they’re averaging in terms of gross pay. And it gives me an opportunity to help our drivers, too.

Every week, I scan my inbox for any new emails. I’m constantly on the lookout for red flags or anything that indicates somebody may be falling through the cracks.

One of the reasons drivers leave is because they didn’t get paid what they thought they were going to get paid. Right? The bank account isn’t what they thought it was going to be on Friday.

Instead of discussing their concerns with a company representative, some people have chosen to take matters into their own hands by sneaking into the terminal, cleaning out their trucks, and leaving the keys.

We’re constantly trying to play catch up and figure out what went wrong when an employee doesn’t show up for work. We reach out to them, but we can never get ahold of them or understand their perspective. As a Best Fleets in America carrier, communication is key!

We expected things to go right, but I know pay is a big issue for people. They are expected to make so much that their spouses talk about the why behind it all at home. On Fridays, they expect a certain amount of money to be deposited into their accounts, and when it’s significantly less than what they were expecting, it creates problems at home and at work.

The problems are much worse than you think at times. Just imagine getting a phone call from your spouse when the money’s not there. So, to get back to the story about driver pay, we’re watching a six-week rolling average.

I’m the general manager of a flatbed trucking company, so I spend a lot of time looking at data and analytics. Recently, I noticed that one driver, in particular, was doing extremely well. So I looked at their six-week rolling average to see what they were doing differently from the other drivers.

I decided to add a column and multiply it by 52 in order to calculate what his annual income could be if he maintained his current weekly earnings.

This guy, the first year I watched him, was in the upper nineties–I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, we might actually have a company driver that’ll make 100k this year at our company.’

After watching him for a few weeks, I noticed that his ranking among other drivers would go up and down. So, curious about his methods, I decided to reach out and see what he was doing differently than the other drivers.

After some observation, I decided to contact the driver, Dan. He lived only 30 miles from the trucking terminal, so I asked him what his secret was.

I was really impressed with what I saw and had to ask: what sets you apart from the drivers?

He said that one of the first things he learned in trucking was that there would be good and bad weeks. And he’s managed to save some money away for when those downtimes come–like during holidays or when he chooses to go home.

We were able to save up some money, which was great because it removed a lot of stress from our home life. I know we all wish we could be in that position, but Dan prioritized savings so that he could get to that point.

Not only did it reduce stress in his home life, but I also noticed that Dan is on track to make over #100,000 this year as a company truck driver – which is amazing!

The driver told me that he only goes home every other weekend by choice, so I asked if he had any tips to share with the other drivers.

He’s discovered that this is the best way it works for him and his family. Nevertheless, he often notices that when he’s driving back to the home terminal midweek–say, on a Wednesday or Thursday–

Most drivers would just go, Oh, it’s okay. I’ll just go home early and they’d get a couple of extra days at the house so they’d be home maybe part of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, back out on Monday type thing, he says.

What Dan learned was that he had a good relationship with dispatch. He asked for another short load to finish out the week because he still had hours of service available – and why not use it up if it would maximize his income potential?

So that was his whole tip and I totally agree with him. I see that all the time where drivers come in midweek and they’re like, Oh yeah, that’s no problem, because, you know, there’s that emotional attachment to go home. You get to spend a little extra time with your wife and the family or whatever that is.

Dan’s case was different though—you could see it in his bank account and income every week.

In my over 30 years in the trucking industry, this was one of the best trucking tips had gotten from a driver on how he put himself on track for a six-figure $100,000 income.

Increase Your Trucking Income

Truck drivers are worth $100,000. No question about it. But, it won’t happen if drivers don’t advocate for themselves. Let’s recap how you can make six figures as a truck driver.

Don’t get caught up in the cents per mile. That’s one of the things I fear most, I guess, is I’ll have a driver pop in and say, when are we going to get a raise? So-and-so is making this.

To get drivers’ attention, some companies are offering payouts. I understand that there are interesting marketing strategies for carriers who need more drivers. How can we get these drivers through the door? And they don’t necessarily care about the culture of the trucking company and all the things you’re doing.

Many companies dangle a big, flashy number in front of drivers – $0.75 per mile, for example. They know that this will work to lure drivers away from their current company. But what these drivers don’t realize is that, 90 days later, they’re usually back with their old company.

Actually, that wasn’t accurate, or at the very least, it wasn’t the whole story. As with most things in life, there’s always more to it than meets the eye. But don’t get too caught up in the small details like how much each carrier is advertising their services; it’s not worth your time and energy.

Incentive programs can make a big impact on your take-home revenue. I can’t tell you how important those incentive programs are. Not only is it going to add money to your bank account, but it’s going to help you behind the scenes in ways that you probably didn’t think of.

You know, when you’re paying attention to those and you’re a top performer with fuel mileage in the fleet, you’ve got one of the better safety scores in the fleet.

Pretty soon somebody’s going to come up to you and go, Man, you’re doing a lot of things right and we really appreciate you. Would you ever consider being a mentor for us?

Would you be interested in mentoring newer employees and teaching them our company’s procedures? We’re always in need of good trainers, so this could be a great opportunity for you.

From my perspective, mentoring probably wouldn’t be my gig. I understand that living with a stranger in an eight-by-eight-foot cab is maybe certainly not for everybody, but I completely admire the men and women that can do that.

And we, trucking companies, need you badly, so don’t be so quick to push away those incentive plans.

If you haven’t been able to take advantage of these incentives or make some extra money, sit down with your dispatcher, recruiter, an operations person, safety guy, or whoever that is. Because it has the potential to become a significant part of your income.

Lastly, we discussed learning from other experienced Workers in the company to gain insight and skills. After all, somebody who has been with the company for a while probably knows a few things that you don’t.

Basically, don’t be too set in your ways about how everything needs to go. If we take a look at the numbers and evaluate our service, there are probably some things we could do to improve your pay rate which will reduce your stress and probably improve your relationships back home.

When you’re thinking about what loads to pick up, consider not only the hours of service but also whether or not the load will help increase your payment on Friday.

Load selection is important and so are relationships with your operations team especially if you are someone they can rely on.

They know if you’re usually Late for deliveries or if you don’t like to get up early in the morning, and that will affect your earnings.

It’s the men and women that establish that outstanding relationship with safety, operations, with maintenance that probably get the best loads because they can be counted on and because they’ve proven themselves.

I encourage you to take these truck driving tips to hear and sincerely hope you make six figures as a truck driver in the new year.

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