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What are the most profitable trucking jobs in 2020?

Trucking can be a lucrative career. Drivers can make upwards of $60,000 a year, depending on their load type, mileage, licensing and experience. Whether you’re interested in joining the industry or are experienced and looking for new work, you probably want to know what the best driving jobs are.

Technology can help improve driver retention by allowing fleets to incentivize drivers. Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Many of the highest-paying trucking jobs involve moving dangerous or difficult loads or navigating riskier terrain. Generally speaking, the more skill required to do a job, the higher it will pay. If you have the right experience and certifications, there are many valuable opportunities in the trucking business.

Here are nine of the highest-paying jobs in trucking you may consider.

1. Ice road trucking

Ice road truckers can earn between $30,000 and $40,000 in just three months, making them some of the highest-paid drivers there are. However, this impressive salary comes at a cost. Ice road trucking can be a dangerous job.

Image: Alex Debogorski

These truckers drive across frozen roads in northern Canada to deliver goods to miners in winter. Given the danger of these roads, the drivers who navigate them must be highly qualified. Different shipping companies have varied qualifications, but most truckers who apply for these positions don’t get the job.

If you do have the right qualifications and get hired, ice road trucking, although seasonal, can be notably lucrative.

2. Hazmat hauling

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Another more dangerous but profitable trucking job is hazmat hauling. Hazmat trucking involves transporting hazardous materials such as gases, flammable liquids or corrosive substances. These volatile loads require extra care to deliver safely, so drivers are compensated well.

If this is what you want to do, you’ll need hazmat endorsement on top of your CDL. This requires an application and passing a test, but many companies will pay for you to get certified since these drivers are in demand.

3. Tanker hauling

Liquids don’t have to be hazardous for you to get paid well for shipping them. While some tanker drivers do haul dangerous liquids, some deliver things like water or milk. A significant amount of any fluid can be difficult to transport, which is why tanker truckers earn $60,000 a year on average.

To drive a tanker truck, you’ll need one of two certifications: an N endorsement or an X endorsement. An N endorsement qualifies you to drive loads of 1,000 gallons or more. An X endorsement includes an N endorsement and a hazmat certification.

4. Oversized load hauling

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Another trucking job requiring additional certifications is oversized load hauling. These truckers deal with extra large loads, such as shipping heavy construction equipment or even small houses. Unsurprisingly, pulling these enormous payloads requires a high level of skill, which is why oversized load truckers get competitive pay.

Oversized load truckers make an average of more than $54,000 a year, and can even make six figures with the right experience, company and drive time.

5. Luxury car hauling

It stands to reason that the more expensive your cargo, the more it pays to deliver it. This is undoubtedly the case with luxury cars, as truckers transporting them can earn $100,000 annually under the right circumstances.

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Hauling expensive cars is an understandably meticulous job. While you don’t need any certifications to perform this job, you do need to have demonstrable skills. Companies will likely not hire you for this kind of trucking unless you have an impressive driving record.

6. Team driving

To shorten shipping times, many companies hire drivers in pairs. In team driving, one person takes the wheel while the other sleeps, allowing them to travel longer distances in shorter periods. These positions often pay more than solo jobs due to the higher mileage.

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Team driving jobs are widely available and offer competitive pay, but may not be ideal for everyone. The long stretches away from home may be unappealing. If you don’t get along well with your partner, it can be an unnecessarily stressful job.

If you don’t mind being in close quarters with others or being on the road a lot, team driving can be a profitable career.

7. Owner-operator jobs

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Although most truckers work directly for a larger trucking company, this isn’t the only way to make a living as a driver. Owner-operators own their trucks and trailers, instead of using equipment belonging to the company, and can either operate independently or lease to another company. This independence comes with higher expenses, but could also pay more.

Most owner-operators have been in the trucking business for several years before becoming independent. Owning your equipment means having to pay maintenance costs out of pocket, which may be an unattractive prospect to some drivers.

If you can handle the initial expenses, becoming an owner-operator can pay enough that maintenance becomes less of an issue.

8. Private fleets

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Many businesses use shipping services offered by trucking companies, but some large corporations hire their own drivers. Because they don’t have to pay shipping companies, these private fleets can often afford to pay their drivers a higher salary.

Not only are these jobs lucrative, but they’re also readily available. Walmart employs more truck drivers than any other company, with more than 8,000 truckers on its payroll. Private fleets often expect more out of their drivers, such as a cleaner driving record, but offer tempting pay.

9. Mining industry trucking

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Mining companies require talented drivers to take material such as coal safely out of the mines and up to the surface. Sudden movements or bumps could potentially lead to a collapse, so these jobs can be risky. Because of this, mining truck jobs tend to pay well, often falling just behind ice road truckers in terms of compensation for specific tasks.

Find the best driving job for you

Most of the best-paying trucking jobs involve danger or more challenging work. If you’re willing to take on the challenges, there are plenty of profitable positions available.

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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and writer interested in manufacturing and the supply chain. Her work has been published on Thomas Insights, Industrial Machinery Digest, American Machinist and Manufacturing.net.

36 Comments

  1. It’s getting ridiculous there’s a fee for everything. We have too many responsibilities and all we want to do is drive. We are drivers/ security guards/ maintenance/ secretaries/and we also get deprived of sleep bcuz your have brokers that call none stop are you there, how much longer, are you empty yet,are you loaded. All unnecessary. simple cut the middle man who just make use fight over crumbs just to stay afloat.

    1. HEAR, HEAR !

      Quote :

      “simple cut the middle man ”

      NOW YOU’RE TALKING !!! (wink)

      IMHO

      1. Hi good day im a professional code14 prdp valid licences with experience to drive a horse and trailer in south africa as well as a tractor wirh trailer im a hardworker and sober driver with accidents free.

  2. 28 yrs in the business i have to say trucking its the worst job out there its not like it used to be
    Not enough pay , too much time away from family its not wort it , life its too short to be wasting time on the road for peanuts

  3. No even remotely even driving a major company dry van with no hazmat should fetch you 70k+ at $.50 a mile. Sometimes ( even decades experienced drivers) need to get with their “first contacts” once or twice a year to see what you can do to get your numbers up.

  4. Not true way less pay let’s think about it…speed is regulated usually 68 no faster drive 11 hrs a day you will be lucky if you drive 600 miles probally not.lets go with 550 miles and .41cent a mile
    225 dollars in a day divided by 14 hours a day you can legally work so that’s 16.00 an hour no that x6 and then stop 34 hrs for 100 hrs a week and then go again for less than 10 an hr.

    1. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & PROSPER ! IMHO says:

      All depending on the route , you typically lose between 8.5 to 12.5 miles per hour from maximum speed allowance when driving a semi truck OTR with a single trailer . Average that and you’ll arrive at an average loss of 10.5 miles per hour .

      So 68mph would be averaged down to 57.5 mph . With a speed limiter set at 65mpg , you’ll average between 53 & 56mph give or take half a mph OTR .

      This is the calculation I use and never arrived late within circumstances under my control . To calculate a route within this example I use the lower parameter which would be 53mph if the engine has a speed limiter at 65mph , even though I can manage to clock 56mph , under the assumption that the speed limit on that route/Hwy is between 62mph & 68mph . When a speed limit on a given route is 56mph , I tend to refuse them unless that route limited at 56mph is a very short distance within the majority of the route . Weather plays its role as well .

      When you’re paid by the mile all these little details weigh in tremendously . Those wheels need to turn and quick(stress) . Every minute counts .Ie: When you arrive at a truck stop and you have to wait a few minutes more due to a line up of some sort , those few minutes that you’ve banked on your route come in handy without disrupting your ETA .

      The bureaucrats don’t appear to realize that time is gold in this industry due to all sorts of potential elements and its poor structure . Forcing time constraints on an ill structured industry is ludicrous . Paying driver per mile/production and limiting that production is ludicrous .

      Remove pay per mile and the clock , and truck drivers will have a lot more breathing room which will trickle down into increased safety IF they aren’t forced by a superior irrationally . However , all these limiting regulations have been induced due to abuse and attempting to level the competitive field among participants . So we can’t remove the clock . What we can remove is the pay per mile to hourly , and limit regular working hours to 8 hours within a 24 hour period .

      Now using your .41 per mile wage based on my lower parameter of 53mph equals to $21.73 per hour while driving . Assuming this is a switch drop & hook yard to yard run with inspections and fuel added on and rounded off equals to approximately 1.5 hours on duty . Hopefully you don’t get held up to long at an inspection scale on your way .

      If you can drive a maximum of 11 hours at 53mph plus your 1.5 extra hours on duty time it averages to $19.12 per hour . If you have unpaid detention of 2 hours on both ends on your route at that wage per mile you might as well go work at McDonalds due to wage per hour dropping to $13.97 . 9 hours driving + 4 hours unpaid detention +half hour inspection + half hour bracket for fueling = 5 hours on duty non driving not paid on a wage paid per mile .This is beyond charity . It’s slavery through trickery .

      HR won’t mention this to a recruit apart from perhaps saying they’ll pay after 2 hours of detention per stop . Take empty trailer and go get loaded , 2 hours detention . Then roll and go get unloaded , another 2 hours detention . A recruit will typically realize this on their route and then quit which will trickle to high turn over rates . Then carrier complains about a driver shortage .

      They have the audacity to reply that all your hours are accounted for in your per mile rate . Then why pay after x hours of detention ,or P&D ? They stumble over their own lies , that’s why !

      This industry has become a can of worms . Truck drivers need to unite and improve their situation by taking the bull by the horns and being innovative .

      In my humble opinion …….

    1. Depends on where your at like the French quarter, Buckhead, Fat City, Buck Town, downtown Charleston, Memphis, Nashville. Yanno, places where the food and hospitality is huge and tied into the tourist scene! Even though i love Micky D’s, its not the bucks career draw…lol.

  5. I’m a Contractor and my average weekly pay is $23-2400 gross per week with some weeks as high as $2900. Big companies aren’t going to pay you what your time is worth. I chose 30% instead of 70 cents a mile and sometimes make over a $1.50 mile or once in a while only 60 cents per mile but the percentage is better. I think it also makes the owner choose better paying loads. Driving for big Corporations will only net you a similar wage as if you did Local and were home every night. Depending on your location of course. But gee just think, Move where you want and where the Money is!

  6. Not one mention of TEAMSTERS,,RETIRED after 32 years at YELLOW FREIGHT, Baxter Springs, KS watched the old guy’s retire at 65 and die soon after,,I retired at 56,,am now 80,,been drawing $3000/ month,,had great working conditions,,not a lot of chrome or power or speed, Companies paying cheap labor and benefits have finally put an end to all the good trucking jobs,,cuss the Teamsters all you want, but $3000X23 years,,,hammer down,,

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