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Training American Truckers since 1963

  • Writer's pictureMarc Bacani

How Much Do CDL Drivers Make?


CDL Driver getting paid

The trucking industry is a cornerstone of the global economy, ensuring the timely delivery of goods across vast distances. As logistics and transportation sectors continue to grow, the demand for skilled truck drivers rises, presenting a multitude of opportunities for those with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This comprehensive guide explores the differences between Class A and Class B CDL drivers, focusing on their salaries, job roles, and the factors influencing their earnings.


Class A CDL

A Class A CDL allows drivers to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. This includes vehicles such as:

  • Tractor-trailers (semi-trucks)

  • Tanker vehicles

  • Livestock carriers

  • Flatbeds


Class B CDL

A Class B CDL permits drivers to operate any single vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not heavier than 10,000 pounds. This includes:

  • Straight trucks

  • Large buses (city and school buses)

  • Segmented buses

  • Box trucks (e.g., delivery trucks)

  • Dump trucks with small trailers


Entry-Level Class A CDL Drivers

Entry-level CDL-A drivers typically earn between $45,000 and $55,000 annually. These drivers are often just starting their careers and may lack the experience to command higher wages. Factors influencing these earnings include the type of company, the driver’s location, and the specific job duties. The trucking jobs that are available to entry-level truck drivers are usually OTR drivers.


Experienced Class A CDL Drivers

As drivers gain more experience, their earning potential increases. Experienced OTR Truck Drivers CDL-A drivers can earn an average truck driver pay between $65,000 and $85,000 per year. Drivers with five or more years of experience, especially those with a clean driving record and specialized skills, are in high demand. For example, the highest annual salary of some of the highest-paid truck driver jobs is hauling crude oil.


Specialized Class A CDL Drivers

Drivers who specialize in certain types of freight, such as Hazmat Truck Drivers, oversized load drivers, refrigerated goods, or Flatbed Truck Drivers, often earn more. Also, refrigerated truck drivers, known as Reefer Trucks, Regional Truck Drivers, Dedicated Drivers, and Company Drivers. Specialized Class A CDL drivers can earn $75,000 to $90,000 or more per year.


Factors Affecting Salaries for CDL-A Drivers

Several factors influence the earnings of Class A CDL drivers:

  1. Type of Freight: Drivers hauling hazardous materials, oversized loads, or other specialized freight, such as refrigerated truck drivers and flatbed drivers can earn more.

  2. Experience: More experienced drivers typically earn higher salaries.

  3. Location: Pay rates can vary by region due to the cost of living and demand for drivers.

  4. Employer: Larger trucking companies or those offering comprehensive benefits packages may offer higher salaries. Regional drivers and company drivers might get paid a lower cost per mile than the average trucker salary. However prospective truckers should take note that driving responsibilities are lower than those of Owner-Operator Truck Drivers. According to Quality Carriers the average Owner-Operator salary is between $120,000 to $140,000 per year. CDL-A Company Drivers will earn less but companies will offer additional benefits that add up if you were to do an

  5. Miles Driven: Earnings can also be influenced by the number of miles driven and the length of hauls.

  6. Team Drivers: Earnings are generally more than solo drivers due to the longer hours and the ability to cover more miles. On average, team truck drivers in the United States can make between $70,000 to $110,000 per year per driver. This can vary based on experience, the type of freight, the company, and the routes they cover.

  • Entry-Level Team Drivers: Around $70,000 to $85,000 per year per driver.

  • Experienced Team Drivers: Around $90,000 to $110,000 or more per year per driver.

  • Specialized Team Drivers: Those hauling hazardous materials or other high-value loads can earn even more.

  1. Keep in mind that these figures can fluctuate based on bonuses, benefits, and the overall demand for team drivers in the market.


Benefits for Class A CDL Drivers

In addition to their base salary, Class A CDL drivers often receive benefits that can enhance their overall compensation package:

  • Health Insurance: Many employers offer comprehensive health insurance plans.

  • Retirement Plans: Pension plans or retirement savings plans like a 401(k).

  • Paid Time Off: Vacation days, sick leave, and holidays.


Additional Benefits

  • Bonuses: Safety, performance, and fuel efficiency bonuses.

  • Per Diem Pay: For meals and lodging during long hauls.


Job Stability and Career Growth

Class A CDL drivers enjoy significant job stability due to the essential nature of their work. The demand for skilled drivers remains strong, particularly in the logistics, construction, and manufacturing sectors. Career growth opportunities include moving into specialized driving roles, obtaining additional endorsements, or transitioning into management positions within the transportation industry.


Class B CDL Driver Salaries

Class B CDL drivers also have diverse career opportunities, and their earnings can vary based on similar factors to those affecting Class A CDL drivers. Here’s an overview of their earning potential as of 2024:


National Average Salary

On average, a Class B CDL driver in the United States can expect to earn between $35,000 and $55,000 per year. Again, some drivers can earn more, especially those with specialized skills or working in high-demand areas.


Entry-Level Class B CDL Drivers

Entry-level Class B CDL drivers typically earn between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. These drivers are usually at the beginning of their careers and might be gaining initial experience in roles such as delivery truck driving or operating smaller dump trucks.


Experienced Class B CDL Drivers

Experienced Class B CDL drivers can earn between $40,000 and $55,000 per year. With several years of experience, these drivers are often in higher demand and can secure better-paying positions with larger companies or in specialized driving roles.


Specialized Class B CDL Drivers

Drivers who specialize in certain types of vehicles, such as large buses, cement mixers, or garbage trucks, often earn more. Specialized Class B CDL drivers can earn an annual income of $55,000 to $70,000 or more per year.


Factors Affecting Salaries for Class B CDL Drivers

Several factors influence the earnings of Class B CDL drivers:

  1. Type of Vehicle: Drivers operating specialized vehicles like cement mixers or large buses can earn more.

  2. Experience: More experienced drivers typically earn higher salaries.

  3. Location: Pay rates can vary by region due to the cost of living and demand for drivers.

  4. Employer: Larger companies or those offering comprehensive benefits packages may offer higher salaries.

  5. Union Membership: Unionized drivers often have higher wages and better benefits.


Benefits for Class B CDL

In addition to their base salary, Class B CDL drivers often receive benefits that enhance their overall compensation package and provide a decent income:

  • Health Insurance: Many employers offer comprehensive health insurance plans.

  • Retirement Plans: Pension plans or retirement savings plans like a 401(k).

  • Paid Time Off: Vacation days, sick leave, and holidays.

  • Overtime Pay: Opportunities for overtime can significantly increase annual earnings.

  • Job Stability: Municipal and large private companies typically provide stable, year-round employment.


Job Stability and Career Growth

Class B CDL drivers also enjoy significant job stability, particularly those employed in public transit, waste management, and construction industries. Career growth opportunities include obtaining additional endorsements, moving into specialized driving roles, or transitioning into supervisory or management positions within their industry.


Comparison: Class A CDL Drivers vs. Class B CDL Drivers

Understanding the distinctions between Class A and Class B CDL drivers is essential for those considering a career in trucking. Here’s a detailed comparison of their roles, responsibilities, and earning potentials.


Job Roles and Responsibilities

Class A CDL Drivers

  • Vehicles Operated: Tractor-trailers, tanker vehicles, livestock carriers, flatbeds.

  • Primary Duties: Long-haul transportation of goods, often crossing state lines. Responsibilities include vehicle inspection, cargo loading/unloading, and compliance with federal regulations.

  • Specializations: Hazmat transportation, refrigerated goods, oversized loads, and long-haul routes.


Class B CDL Drivers

  • Vehicles Operated: Straight trucks, large buses, box trucks, dump trucks with small trailers.

  • Primary Duties: Typically local or regional transportation. Responsibilities include vehicle inspection, cargo delivery, and adherence to local and state regulations.

  • Specializations: Public transit, school buses, refuse collection, and construction-related hauling.

  • Class B vehicles such as buses are often equipped with specialized equipment such as wheelchair lifts and straps. This equipment requires further training.


Salary Comparison

Class A CDL Drivers

  • Entry-Level: $45,000 to $55,000 per year.

  • Experienced: $65,000 to $85,000 per year.

  • Specialized: $75,000 to $90,000 or more per year.

Class B CDL Drivers

  • Entry-Level: $30,000 to $40,000 per year.

  • Experienced: $40,000 to $55,000 per year.

  • Specialized: $55,000 to $70,000 or more per year.


Specialized Endorsements and Their Impact on Earnings

Both Class A and Class B CDL drivers can obtain additional endorsements that allow them to transport specific types of freight or operate certain types of vehicles. These endorsements often lead to higher pay due to the increased skill and responsibility required.


Doubles and Triples Endorsement (Class A)

Drivers with a Doubles and Triples (T) endorsement are qualified to be a double-trailer truck driver or a triple-trailer truck driver. This endorsement typically results in higher earnings due to the complexity and risk involved in handling longer combinations.


  • Entry-Level Drivers: $55,000 to $65,000 per year

  • Experienced Drivers: $70,000 to $90,000 per year

  • Specialized Drivers: $90,000 to $110,000 per year


Hazmat Endorsement (Class A and B)

A Hazmat (H) endorsement allows drivers to transport hazardous materials. Due to the inherent risks and regulatory requirements, Hazmat drivers generally earn more.

  • Entry-Level Drivers: $50,000 to $65,000 per year

  • Experienced Drivers: $65,000 to $90,000 per year

  • Specialized Drivers: $90,000 to $100,000 per year


Tanker Endorsement (Class A and B)

Drivers with a Tanker (N) endorsement are certified to haul liquid or gaseous loads in tank vehicles. This endorsement also comes with higher pay rates due to the specific skills required.

  • Entry-Level Drivers: $50,000 to $65,000 per year

  • Experienced Drivers: $65,000 to $85,000 per year

  • Specialized Drivers: $85,000 to $100,000 per year


Combination Endorsements (Class A and B)

Drivers who hold multiple endorsements, such as Hazmat and Tanker (X endorsement), can significantly increase their earning potential. These drivers are highly versatile and can take on a wider range of jobs.

  • Combination Endorsement Drivers: $70,000 to $110,000 per year


Entry-Level Drivers and Endorsements

Entry-level drivers can enhance their career prospects and earning potential by obtaining additional endorsements. For example, entry-level drivers can add a Tanker endorsement by passing a knowledge test that covers the unique challenges and safety considerations of driving a tanker vehicle.


Conclusion

The trucking industry offers a wealth of opportunities for both Class A and Class B CDL drivers. Understanding the differences in job roles, responsibilities, and earning potential between these two classes is crucial for anyone considering a career in this field. By obtaining additional endorsements, both Class A and Class B CDL drivers can significantly enhance their earning potential, annual salary, and job prospects. With the right skills, experience, and endorsements, CDL drivers can enjoy rewarding careers with competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits.

 


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