Owner Operators: How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

For many, the allure of becoming an owner-operator lies in the promise of financial independence and the potential for higher earnings.

As an owner-operator, you have the opportunity to take charge of your trucking business, set your rates, and reap the rewards of your hard work.

By gaining insights into the various elements that contribute to owner-operator earnings, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions, set realistic expectations, and navigate the path toward financial success in the trucking industry.

What is the Average Salary of Owner Operators?

According to research, the average base income for an owner operator is between $100,000, and $150,000, but this amount can differ depending on several factors like experience, load type, and time spent on the road.

While owner-operators typically make more money than company drivers, it’s important to consider their expenses as well.

Some drivers only take home $45,000 to $80,000 annually, and even less in the first year when equipment costs are higher. Additionally, owner-operators are responsible for their health insurance and may not be eligible for other company benefits.

The average income of owner operators is between $100,000 and $150,000.

Owner Operator vs. Company Truck Driver

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, understanding the difference between owner-operators and company truck drivers can empower you to make informed decisions and maximize your profitability.

Business Ownership and Control: An owner-operator owns their truck and operates as an independent business entity. This gives them more control over their operators, rates, and routes. A company truck driver is an employee of a trucking company. They drive trucks owned by the company and operate under the company’s policies, guidelines, and schedules. They are typically paid a regular salary or hourly wage.

Financial Responsibilities: As business owners, owner-operators are responsible for all truck-related expenses, including fuel, insurance, maintenance, permits, taxes, and equipment. Company truck drivers are not responsible for the financial aspects of truck ownership or operation.

Risk and Liability: As independent business owners, owner-operators assume a higher level of risk and liability. They are responsible for any potential accidents, damages, or legal issues that may arise during their operations. Company truck drivers operate under the protection of the trucking company’s insurance policies.

Benefits and Perks: Owner-operators have the potential to earn higher profits, they are responsible for sourcing their health insurance, retirement plans, and time off. Company truck drivers may receive benefits provided by the trucking company as part of the employment package.

Ultimately, the decision to be an owner-operator depends on whether you want more control with a higher earning potential or are willing to let a company handle some more complicated aspects of business in exchange for less responsibility and a lower salary.

Expenses Of Owner Operators

There are several expenses owner-operators need to cover. These must be considered when considering the financial benefits and responsibilities of becoming an owner-operator.

Purchasing a Truck:

Initially, it’s important to obtain a truck either through purchasing or leasing. Before making the purchase, consider the following factors:

  • Determine the type of freight you intend to transport
  • Identify the routes you will be operating on (as it may impact emissions testing)
  • Evaluate your financial plan and purchase the best truck that fits your budget
  • Decide whether to lease the truck to a carrier, transport your own freight or both


Even if you have a new truck, certain tasks will need to be done such as oil and fluid changes, tire and wheel replacements, regular greasing, compressor maintenance and repairs, brake inspections and replacements, and fuel filter replacements.

Consistent maintenance can help prevent bigger problems in the future. Don’t overlook including these costs in your financial plan.


Having the appropriate insurance for your truck is essential, but it’s also crucial to have insurance that covers your cargo loads in case of loss, theft, accidents, or any other damage.

Proper insurance coverage is required by the clients you haul for. Even if your operation runs smoothly, these claims are an integral part of the business.

Fuel Expenses:

This cost is inevitable and cannot be eliminated. Although there are reward programs and other strategies to reduce fuel expenses, they have their limitations.

Plan for fuel costs based on the distance you’ll be traveling, and prepare for the worst-case and highest-cost scenario rather than the best-case scenario.

2 Ways Owner Operators Get Paid

There are essentially two ways to get paid as an owner-operator – a percentage of the load, or by mileage.

A Percentage of the Load: When you opt for percentage pay, you can get paid between 25-85% of the load revenue, but you are at risk of losing money if you get a low-paying load.

Mileage: This way of payment means you get a set amount for the miles you drive, regardless of the load’s value, so it is more consistent.

The payment method you choose depends on your situation and how well you can manage your finances. The load percentage pay may work for you if you can save your money well and budget conservatively.

FAQs about Salaries of Owner Operators

What are the best-paid trucking jobs?

The trucking industry offers various job opportunities, but some jobs tend to have higher compensation rates than others typically due to the hazards involved. The top five highest-paying trucking jobs include an ice road driver, tanker hauler, hazmat driver, oversized load hauler, and owner-operator driver.

How can you become an owner-operator?

Firstly, you must obtain your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and make the necessary financial investment in the truck and equipment. Next, you need to obtain insurance coverage is crucial to ensure that you are protected in the event of an accident or other damage. Once you’re covered, you’re ready to apply for work from companies in your area.

What are the highest-paid cities for owner-operators?

Several cities in the United States offer high compensation rates for owner-operator drivers. Among them are Salt Lake City, UT, Phoenix, AZ, San Antonio, TX, Charlotte, NC, and Nashville, TN. These cities are known for having a robust trucking industry, with high demand for drivers, leading to better salaries.

Partner with AAOO

Both owner-operators and company truck drivers play important roles in the trucking industry.

If you’re ready to take charge of your financial future, run your own business, and increase your flexibility and independence in the trucking business, it’s time to join the AAOO today!

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