In 2024 the one question on everyone’s mind is whether or not truck drivers make good money. We will cover this and much more so prospective truck drivers can make an educated decision, rather than guestimates or misinformed opinions stated as fact. There are many misconceptions about truck driving and truck drivers, but it’s hard to blame people when truckers can’t even agree on what an owner operator is but that’s for another day and another post.

Truck driving is one of the most common and essential occupations in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 1.9 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in 2020, making up 1.3% of the total workforce. But do truck drivers make good money? How much can you earn as a truck driver or an owner operator in 2024? And what are the factors that affect your income potential?

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

According to Indeed, the average base salary for truck drivers in the US was $67,538 per year as of January 2024, based on 1.2 million salaries submitted anonymously. This is about 19% higher than the BLS figure we’ll discuss next. This needs discussion because the answer to this question depends on various factors, such as driver experience, location, type of freight, and company. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the US was $56,730 in 2020, which translates to $27.28 per hour. This is higher than the median annual wage for all occupations, which was $41,950 in 2020.

Is That Really True Though?

Most over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers make their money based on miles driven. Simple math will tell you that if a trucker drives 100,000 miles at $0.50/mile, they will earn $50,000. However it’s not always that simple and straightforward. That’s because some some truckers are paid by percentage, meaning they receive a percentage of the carrier’s gross income for the hauled load. Some truckers are are classified as employees, while others are classified as 1099 independent contractors. Some consider themselves as sole proprietors, while others incorporate and choose between C and S-corps, while others still, prefer LLCs. Then there is taxation, which can be a mix of things and further complicate the matter.

An example of trucking operating costs paid by a carrier to run one truck. This also shows the driver's gross and net income as a W-2 truck driver

Unless a driver is paid by the mile, stats and numbers may not reflect the actual earnings of truck drivers, as they do not include bonuses, overtime, tips, or other forms of compensation. The BLS figures above claim the driver makes $27.28 per hour but that’s based on 40 hours per week and OTR truckers work 70 hours per week, thus dropping that $27.28 to a measly $15.58. That’s barely over minimum wage in some states. Let’s not forget that truckers are required to take a weekly 34-hour reset, and often it occurs on the road and away from home. It’s also almost always unpaid.

Then there are the differences in cost of living and expenses across different states and regions. Where do you even begin with something like that when you cross state lines for a living?

Here’s a good example. The average base salary for truck drivers in New York was $82,383 per year, while in Mississippi it was $53,722 per year. This shows that location is a significant factor in determining your income potential as a truck driver.

Another factor that affects your earnings is the type of freight you haul. Different types of freight have different rates, demand, and requirements. For example, dry van freight, which is the most common type of freight, usually pays less than flatbed, tanker, or reefer. Specialized or hazardous freight often pays even more but specialized or hazardous freight also requires more skills, training, and certifications, which increase expenses and liabilities.

You also have to consider the availability and demand of each type of freight, as well as the competition and seasonality. For example, reefer freight may pay more than dry van freight, but it may also be harder to find or more seasonal. Therefore, you have to balance the pros and cons of each type of freight and choose the one that suits your preferences and goals.

How Much Do Owner Operators Make?

Is Your Truck Profitable? 2024 Trucking Business Profit and Loss P&L

As I said earlier, truckers don’t always agree on what an owner operator is. There are also carriers who are often mistaken for owner operators. Then there are the leased on owner operators or lease operators as we call them. All different types of trucking operations. No matter how you look at it, as long as you’re not a W-2 company driver, you’re a company. Owner operators are truck drivers who own and operate their own trucks, sometimes working for a company, sometimes working for themselves as a carrier. Owner operators can earn more than company drivers, as they have more control over their rates, routes, and schedules. However, they also have more expenses and responsibilities, such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, taxes, and other expenses.

According to Indeed, the average base salary for owner operators in the US was $199,614 per year as of January 2024, based on 59,000 salaries submitted anonymously. This is about three times higher than the average base salary for truck drivers.

However, this number does not reflect the net income of owner operators, as it does not include the costs of running and maintaining their trucks. According to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the average marginal cost per mile for owner operators in 2019 was $1.65. After watching the above video, you’ll see that things have really changed in trucking since 2019 and everything the end of that year brought.

These costs may vary depending on the type, age, and condition of your truck, as well as the type of freight you haul and the routes you take. Moreover, they do not include other expenses, such as health insurance, retirement savings, or personal income taxes.

Therefore, to calculate your net income as an owner operator, you have to subtract your total expenses from your total revenue. Even with the much higher expenses incurred, an owner operator’s salary is still higher than the average salary for truck drivers, but it also requires more risk and investment. I would look at the spreadsheet screenshot above or the video which is based on that spreadsheet. It’ll make a whole lot more sense.

How Can AFT Dispatch Help You Make More Money?

Make more money on your miles

As you can see, truck drivers and owner operators can make good money depending on various factors. However, finding and booking loads, negotiating rates, and handling paperwork and compliance issues can be time-consuming and stressful. That’s where AFT Dispatch can help you.

AFT Dispatch is a professional truck dispatch service that works exclusively with owner operators and small trucking companies. We have over a decade of experience in the trucking industry and we know how to get you the best loads and rates. We also take care of all the administrative tasks, such as billing and invoicing for carriers, and everything else for leased on owner operators so you can focus on driving and making money.

Here are some of the benefits of working with AFT Dispatch:

  • You get access to our network of brokers and freight-forwarders who offer reliable and profitable loads for van, reefer, and flatbed freight.
  • You get to choose the loads that suit your preferences and goals, such as location, distance, and rate. You have the final say on every load you take.
  • You get paid like before, with no hidden fees or deductions. We charge a flat rate of the gross revenue per load.
  • You get to work with our dedicated and experienced dispatchers, who will negotiate the best rates, book the loads, send the rate confirmations, and get you ready to roll.
  • You get peace of mind knowing that we handle all the paperwork such as setup contracts and insurance certificates.
  • You get to keep your independence and flexibility, as you are not bound by any long-term contracts or commitments and you can cancel at any time.

If you are interested in working with us, you can fill out this form to get started:


Learn More About AFT Dispatch

We will contact you within 24 hours and discuss your needs and expectations. We will also provide you with a free consultation and a customized plan to help you grow your trucking business.

Free Trucking Resources

Truck driving is a rewarding and lucrative career, but it also comes with many challenges and uncertainties. Whether you are a company driver or an owner operator, you need to consider various factors that affect your income potential. Trucking just isn’t for everyone.

If you want to learn more about how AFT Dispatch can help you make more money, you can check out some of our other articles, such as:

We hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful and helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you and help you in any way we can.

And remember, you are always welcome to call or text us at (801) 448-6363 and check out our YouTube channel where we publish free educational videos for truckers.