Wages for professional truck drivers rose significantly in 2021 as demand for drivers amid the ongoing driver shortage increased competition for talent, according to the results of an industry survey released by the American Trucking Associations.
As part of the 2022 ATA Driver Compensation Study, fleets were queried about their driver and owner-operator compensation, including pay rates, bonuses and benefits. The fleets cumulatively represented more than 135,000 employee drivers and nearly 20,000 independent contractors.
The median truckload driver earned about $69,700 in 2021 — an 18% increase from the previous survey in 2019 and up nearly 11% over 2020 levels. That median amount includes bonuses but excludes other benefits. The median includes new drivers to the industry, which brings down the average. There were many drivers who made significantly more than the media, said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a press conference.
The median salary for a driver at a private fleet was $85,000. At a less-than-truckload fleet it was $73,000.
Non-drayage owner-operators who responded to the survey saw estimated median gross revenues of $235,000 in 2021, while owner-operators in the drayage sector saw median gross revenues of $164,000.
Among truckload carriers running final-mile operations, compensation for those drivers was about $65,000.
Driver Pay Increases
About 93% of truckload carriers boosted pay in 2021, with the average increase hitting nearly 11%. Over half of the carriers (60%) indicated they were planning to increase pay this year as well.
“I have to be honest with you, I thought it’d even be a little bit higher than that,” Costello said. “I think the ones that probably didn’t [boost pay] were already ahead of the curve and had higher compensation levels.”
About 96% of fleets offered referral bonuses for new drivers, and 54% offered sign-on bonuses.
Every less-than-truckload fleet surveyed raised pay in 2021.
“The data supports what industry sources have been saying for some time — the driver shortage has been great for drivers who saw their salaries rise last year,” Costello said in a press release. “Pay increases were broad based across the industry. For example between salary increases and bonuses, the average truckload driver saw a wage increase of 10.9% last year” compared to 2019.
About 80% of truckload drivers surveyed were paid by the mile, but of the remaining 20%, pay structures included hourly and salary. While the number of drivers paid by the mile is the majority, that number has ticked down from a decade ago, Costello said in a press conference.
In 2021, a new driver is making about 46 cents a mile, with the max pay going up to a shade under 60 cents a mile for experienced drivers, Costello said. In salaried terms, the average maximum pay for a driver was over $81,000 a year.