How do truck drivers get paid? If you're on the outside of the truck driving industry looking in, the payment system for truck drivers may seem confusing.

The reality is that truck drivers are paid in a variety of ways, and how you get paid in the trucking industry depends on many factors. Understanding those factors and differences can make a big difference in how much you can make and which trucking company you join. Read on to understand the most common payment structures that you'll see in the truck driving industry. You’ll also learn why so many experienced truck drivers are focused on a simple equation (cents per mile times number of miles) to determine their pay and how that can leave them shorted by the company they drive for. You’ll also hear about how Roehl Transport, led by CEO Rick Roehl (who is also a CDL truck driver) helps Roehl drivers Take Home More.

Pay Per Mile / Cents Per Mile (CPM)

Pay per mile, also called cents per mile, is the most common way that truck drivers get paid. Often referred to as CPM, a driver is paid a certain cents per mile for every mile they drive. To figure out how much a driver is paid, take the number of miles driven and multiple that by the cents per mile.

For example, if a driver is paid $0.60 per mile and the driver drives 2,500 miles in a week, that driver earns $1,500. Because this is the most common way to pay truckers, drivers default to the miles x cpm = paycheck formula.

Important Watchout: Some trucking companies offer a high mileage rate but don’t get their drivers a lot of miles. Earning $1.00 a mile is an attractive lure, but if you’re only getting 900 miles in a week, you can see that your time is not being respected.
Those examples are not the end of the story though. You need to know that there’s a real difference in how most carriers calculate the miles truckers drive – and it means about 5-7% less for most drivers. For an explanation of Household Goods (HHG) / Short Route Miles, Practical Miles and Address-to-Address Miles, check out this Practical Route Miles Explanation and how Roehl leads the transportation industry with address-to-address pay calculations.

Pay Per Hour

Hourly pay is just what it sounds like. Drivers are paid by the hour, and they are most often working local positions, like shuttle or yard drivers, day cabs or in a place where traffic impacts a driver’s ability to log miles. Hourly pay may be more popular with beverage, dump truck and garbage truck driving jobs, which require a Class A CDL, but may also have a physical component to the job (like unloading and loading). Some less-than-truckload (LTL) or Pickup and Delivery (P&D) drivers may be paid hourly. In those cases, drivers may not have a full truckload when they start and may make multiple deliveries within one run. Pay per hour is commonly used by warehousing businesses, grocery chains, retailers, and so on.  
 
Other Types of Compensation

Accessorial Pay or Driver Activity Pay

Some truck drivers have an opportunity to make extra money through "accessorial pay" or "driver activity pay". Drivers who are paid by the mile can earn this type of pay for activities that fall outside the scope of standard truck driving. Some examples of the type of work that drivers perform for this type of pay include:
  • Tarping
  • After hour deliveries
  • Shrink-wrapping pallets
  • Loading and unloading trailers
  • Forklift operation
  • Non-dock deliveries
If this interests you, you'll want to check with your carrier to find out what you can earn extra pay for doing these extra activities. 

Stop Pay and Detention Pay

If you're expected to make several stops along one route, you may be eligible for stop pay. This ensures that you will get paid while making stops - which is important if you're being paid per mile. If you're not earning stop pay, then time spent at stops is time NOT spent earning money. 
Detention pay is similar to stop pay, but it's meant for people who have to make one long stop instead of many shortstops. If you're holed up at a specific dock for a long period, you may be eligible for detention pay. 

Guaranteed Pay

Some trucking companies offer a guaranteed weekly minimum pay to eligible drivers. The idea behind guaranteed truck driver pay is that, if miles are low in a week, the driver still makes a minimum amount. A trucking company might offer guaranteed pay because they have sporadic demand that means a driver might have low miles one week and higher miles the next. Instead of a low paycheck followed by a high paycheck, the theory is that the driver doesn’t fall below a minimum amount. For a driver, this sounds like a great option, and that’s why more and more companies are offering it.

Important Watchout: In reality, the requirements to get guaranteed pay often involves things a driver may not be able to control or the guaranteed pay might be based on a rolling average, meaning the driver earned at least the weekly minimum, on average, each week of the month. Ask the trucking company for a specific list of requirements to get guaranteed pay or find a carrier that will respect your time and is diversified enough to keep you moving and earning without a guaranteed gimmick.  

Bonuses

Many truck drivers receive additional pay, which is also called "bonus" pay. Bonuses are provided to drivers for having a good safety record, successfully passing inspections, consistent on-time deliveries, good performance, and more. May sure to understand the requirements to earn those bonuses, especially if they are paid out quarterly (or worse, annually). Because Safety is Roehl’s Cornerstone value, the company rewards drivers for safe performance as they drive with accident-free pay. (In 2021, 90% of Roehl drivers who were eligible for accident-free pay earned it – to the tune of $3.5 million).  
Some companies also offer signing bonuses to hire drivers or include incentives to drivers who can improve their mileage per gallon, either by making improvements to their rig or through other means. 

Important Watchout: Some trucking companies offer large sign-on bonuses to attract drivers. Sign-on bonuses of $5,000 and $10,000 are becoming all too common, and now some carriers are even promising $20,000 sign on bonuses to stand out to truck drivers looking for a job. When it comes to sign-on bonuses, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some sign-on bonuses may have requirements that are not achievable, or they are paid out over a very, very long time. There are reasons carriers offer that much money to a new driver. Often, they know it attracts drivers and the carriers know they will not have to pay the bonus out. Two great questions to ask a trucking company offering a sign-on bonus are 1) how many of your drivers earned the sign-on bonus payouts? 2) what was the average payout to the drivers?

Years ago, Roehl Transport offered a Sign-on / Stay-on Bonus that paid drivers for their time when switching to Roehl and encouraged drivers to stay with Roehl as they learned Roehl’s systems and processes. Roehl then moved from sign-on bonuses to sign-on pay, which was a CPM earned by the driver on the miles they drove over their first year. Much like accident-free pay, sign-on pay rewarded the driver for the actual miles he or she drove as they drove them, and it worked well with Roehl’s performance-based compensation model, which earned Roehl the CCJ Innovator of the Year Award. In 2022, Roehl Transport evolved driver compensation, paying drivers even more, through the innovative Sliding Mileage Scale Pay plans.

Sliding Mileage Scale Pay – Take Home More!

Roehl’s known as the Take Home More, Be Home More carrier, and one of the company’s values is Innovation. That’s why Roehl has progressed to paying drivers using sliding mileage scales. Sliding mileage pay scales reflect the changing freight market, where one a “one-size fits all loads and drivers CPM” model simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Roehl’s mileage band pay plans feature rates per mile based on the length of haul with activity pay added in. The move from a static CPM on all miles to a sliding mileage scale based on length of haul also takes into account the value of a driver’s time and recognizes that drivers need to be compensated at a much higher rate per mile on shorter lengths of haul. It also takes geographic location and freight type into consideration. For example, some Roehl drivers will earn $1.64 per mile on a 50-mile load and then $0.70 on a 600-mile load. The result is the Roehl drivers are better compensated for their time and are taking home more!

What’s Next with Truck Driver Pay?

As you can see, there are several ways truck drivers can be paid for the work they do. Many, many trucking companies follow antiquated models to calculate miles and to pay drivers, and even within those models, drivers can come up short. Roehl Transport is built on values and led by a CEO who is also a driver, and it’s that leadership that has made Roehl a destination for professional truck drivers. In additional to traditional over-the-road driving jobs, Roehl hundreds of home daily, home weekly and dedicated truck driving jobs across the company’s dry van, refrigerated, flatbed and curtainside divisions.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Truck Driver Pay

How are Truck Drivers Paid?
Pay Per Mile / Cents Per Mile (CPM) Pay per mile, also called cents per mile, is the most common way that truck drivers get paid. Often referred to as CPM, a driver is paid a certain cents per mile for every mile they drive. To figure out how much a driver is paid, take the number of miles driven and multiple that by the cents per mile. For example, if a driver is paid $0.60 per mile and the driver drives 2,500 miles in a week, that driver earns $1,500. Because this is the most common way to pay truckers, drivers default to the miles x cpm = paycheck formula.

What are HHG miles?
Household Goods (HHG), also known as Short Route Miles are the shortest are the most common way truck driver miles are calculated. Roehl Transport is one of the only major trucking companies to pay on Practical Route Address-to-Address Miles calculations(

What is Sliding Mileage Scale Pay?
Sliding mileage pay scales reflect the changing freight market, where one a 'one-size fits all loads and drivers CPM' model simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Roehl’s mileage band pay plans feature rates per mile based on the length of haul with activity pay added in. The move from a static CPM on all miles to a sliding mileage scale based on length of haul also takes into account the value of a driver’s time and recognizes that drivers need to be compensated at a much higher rate per mile on shorter lengths of haul. 

What is Guaranteed Truck Driver Pay?
A guaranteed weekly minimum pay to eligible drivers. The idea behind guaranteed truck driver pay is that, if miles are low in a week, the driver still makes a minimum amount. The requirements to get guaranteed pay often involves things a driver may not be able to control or the guaranteed pay might be based on a rolling average, meaning the driver earned at least the weekly minimum, on average, each week of the month.

Why Do Trucking Companies Offer Sign-on Bonuses?
Some trucking companies offer large sign-on bonuses to attract drivers. and to stand out to truck drivers looking for a job. When it comes to sign-on bonuses, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some sign-on bonuses may have requirements that are not achievable, or they are paid out over a very, very long time.

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