Need for drivers, consumer demand helped push up trucker pay last year

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Aug 16, 2022
Truck driver

Wages for American truckers rose significantly in 2021 as demand for drivers increased competition for talent, according to the results of a new industry survey released today by the American Trucking Associations.

Among the key findings in this year’s survey:

  • The median truckload driver earned more than $69,000 in 2021 – an 18% increase from the previous survey in 2019.
  • More than 90% of truckload fleets raised pay in 2021, with the average increase hitting 10.9%.
  • Ninety-six percent of fleets offered referral bonuses for new drivers, and 54% offered sign-on bonuses. 
  • Every less-than-truckload fleet surveyed raised pay in 2021, with the median wage hitting $73,000.
  • Less-than-truckload drivers who hauled freight over the road were paid an estimated median amount of $73,000 in 2021.
  • Less-than-truckload employee drivers on local routes were paid an estimated median amount of $55,000 last year. 
  • The median salary for a driver at a private fleet was $85,000.
  • Non-drayage owner-operators that responded to the survey saw estimated median gross revenues of $235,000 in 2021. Owner-operators in the drayage sector saw median gross revenues of $164,000.
  • Drivers making final mile deliveries for truckload carriers earned an average of $65,000.

“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,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “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."

Screen Shot 2022 08 10 At 10 45 34 Am

During a call with members of the media today, Costello said half of the carriers indicated they would raise pay this year.

“The driver shortage, coupled with increased demand for goods in the post-pandemic economy, really drove driver salaries. These pay increases should put to lie the myths about the nature of this job – trucking is a path that can provide a well-paid career for Americans looking for one.”

Also during his call with reporters, Costello said that one of the benefits of trucking employment is that it "is a path to the middle class." He also said that truck driving is one of the few occupations where compensation is surpassing the rate of inflation.

The survey data included information from 185 fleets with over 135,000 employee drivers and nearly 20,000 independent contractors.