How Is Pay Calculated in the Trucking Industry?

by Pride Transport | Nov 07, 2022

As a new truck driver, one of the most important questions you can ask is about how you’re going to be paid. You need to know if you’re going to be an hourly employee or if you’ll be on a salary. You could be paid per diem (a day rate), or be paid per mile.


Usually, company drivers receive pay based on cents per mile, or CPM, and are expected to complete around 2,000 to 3,000 miles weekly. With this method, you’re paid for the miles you’re able to travel, so if you can do the max each week, you’ll make more. If you stick with lower mileage, you’ll make less.


How does that pan out for your pay?


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earn a median pay of $48,310 annually, which breaks down to around $23.23 per hour as of 2021’s data. The value of your position could be more or less than this, depending on how many miles you’re driving and how much you’re paid per mile. For example, the average Pride Transport driver makes $81,000 per year. 


The History of Paying CPM

It’s rare to see a truck driver whose entire pay is based on a salary or hourly rate. Since the 1930s, when the country was emerging from the Great Depression, truck drivers have often been paid by the mile. Back then, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal set a minimum wage, and the Fair Labor Standards Act was made law in 1938, but the trucking industry was exempted. Drivers liked this because they would earn more money, and it seemed essential because of supply chain concerns in a struggling time in the country’s history.

CPM is a standard part of working as a truck driver. There is nothing new about it, and you can expect to run into CPM as you start looking for work.

Pride Transport employees inside the truck looking out the front window

Why the Trucking Industry Uses CPM

With the history of truck driving in this company, it makes sense that many companies use the CPM model today. Drivers who are paid via CPM tend to earn more than drivers who are on hourly pay, but there are caveats. 


For example, getting a CPM of $1.00 might sound great, but if you only drive 400 miles a week, you’re only earning $400 for the week. On the other hand, getting paid $.59 per mile might sound low, but if you’re covering 3,000 miles a week, that ends up getting you $1,770 pre-tax. You do have to be cautious with hourly and CPM rates, though, because there is a balance. At certain lower mileages, you might do better with an hourly rate, while higher mileage rates are usually better when paid per mile. 


Pay per hour does still exist, largely with warehouses, retailers, and smaller grocery chains that don’t need their drivers to go long distances. Be sure you ask about the pay and how it’s calculated before you sign on.


How Is CPM Calculated?


Calculating CPM is simple. Drivers are paid each week or every two weeks, depending on the company, based on the mileage they’ve covered. You may track your mileage in a log book, or you might take it right off the odometer. 


The default formula for calculating your pay would be the total mileage times the per-mile rate. For example, if you’re earning $0.75 per mile and go 1,000 miles in a week, you’ll make $750 for the week. If you’re paid $0.50 per mile, you’d make $500. Usually, you’ll be expected to drive daily and for several hours a day, so your mileage may be closer to 2,000 or 3,000 miles weekly. At that rate, you’d get $2,250 for 3,000 miles at $0.75 or $1,500 per mile at $0.75 for 2,000 miles. 


You may also be paid hourly rates for times when you’re not on the road, or you could receive a per diem, so make sure you negotiate before you go on the road to get the best rates possible.


Do You Get Raises by CPM? 


You can get raises in the mileage you’re paid, but it’s also worth negotiating for a rate you’re comfortable with. 


Some companies offer to bump up what they pay per mile when you hit certain target goals, such as completing 2,500 miles for the week or being with the company for a certain length of time. Other companies may increase CPM pay annually or based on other factors, such as how profitable they have been. 


In fact, at Pride, we raised our driver pay by .04 in December 2020, and we recently announced another pay increase taking solo drivers to between .57 to .75 cents per mile as of August 12, 2022. 

close up of a pen and a blank check

The Pros of CPM

There are many positives to being paid by the mile that you should look at. While you don’t have a salary that gives you an expected pay per week or an hourly rate when you’re not driving, being paid per mile does:


  • Make it easier to track your pay. Just multiply your miles times the CPM, and you’ll know what to expect for the week.
  • Help you reach a higher hourly pay. Usually, CPM averages out to a higher hourly pay than if you were paid an hourly rate, even when you’re considering downtime. Additionally, with bonuses for top drivers and incentives for certain runs, you may be able to boost your income significantly above the CPM.
  • Give you basic pay expectations. You’ll know how many miles you’re meant to drive weekly and what your quotas are. From there, you can figure out the minimum pay you’ll get if you complete your routes as required and can also create stretch goals for yourself if you can squeeze in an extra route or two or hit a company target for an incentive. 


Start Your Career With a Solid Income at Pride

At Pride, we offer a CPM rate that we feel is fair. We also offer a $10,000 sign-on bonus, 20% 401K match and other benefits to those who work with us. Interested in learning more? Come take a look at all the driving jobs we have to offer at Pride Transport.

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