When it comes to finding a place to call home, truck drivers want to live where the action is, trucking action. Being close to the place where you park your rig after a long haul over the road is ideal. You also want to live in or near a city or state where plenty of loads are hauled to and from, such as Chicago, IL — or bask in the sunshine of truck driving jobs in California. What you don’t want to do is live in a city or state where truck driving is at its lowest. Here are some of the worst places to live as a truck driver interested in making the big bucks.
Cities to Avoid as a Trucker
Let’s start with cities. Detroit, MI pays truckers 3 percent lower than the national average but, considering the bankrupt economic situation, Detroit is on the skids. Plus you have to worry about finding somewhere safe to live and park your rig when you are home. Detroit isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis, so being a trucker here isn’t the best situation. However, if you are a native of Detroit you have come to understand how the city operates and are aware of the downfalls. Plus, if Motor City makes a come back this would be a great place to set up shop as an owner operator or trucking company startup. But surprisingly Detroit isn’t the worst city for truckers.
In Columbus, OH truckers make 4 percent below the national average. This is a strange scene since Columbus is the largest city in Ohio; you would think that would make it a great place to live as a truck driver. Furthermore, in 2013 Columbus earned an A by Forbes as a top city for US business, as well as the designation as one of the nation’s Best Places for Businesses and Careers. Columbus wasn’t as drastically affected by the recession, either, thanks to the wide diversification of the city’s job market. So why are Columbus trucking jobs paying less than Detroit trucking jobs? That’s a great question that begs an answer given the booming economic situation here.
Now for the lowest paying city for truck driving jobs in the US. Phoenix, AZ trucking jobs rake in 5 percent less than the rest of the states. This is on par with the lowest paying states in the US as discussed later in this article. As with Columbus, Phoenix is the largest city in the state, and it has a strong economy. Why trucking jobs pay lower here than in any other city is truly baffling. Here are some of the other close matches for lowest paying states:
- Los Angeles, CA is 3 percent lower
- Charlotte, NC trucking jobs earn 2 percent less
- Salt Lake City, UT and Dallas, TX truck drivers earn 1 percent less
For Los Angeles to be a low paying city for truck drivers is problematic considering the amount of traffic that goes through LA on account of the trucking industry. However, living in LA may present some challenges, such as a lack of truck parking. This may be part of the reason why truckers make less, as a reflection of the lack of truckers who actually live in and work out of Los Angeles, CA. If you do find yourself living in these cities, don’t pack the moving truck just yet. Consider driving for trucking companies in nearby cities or towns where you can rank higher in salary expectations. Also, be aware of the lower salaries in your city, such as those truckers living in Phoenix, so you can bargain appropriately with trucking companies as you look for better paying trucking jobs. While you may think you are making a lower salary than you should, chances are most of the companies in your area are paying the same, so there’s little chance of requesting a raise.
States Paying the Least to Truck Drivers
Now let’s look at the bigger picture, of those states that are paying truck drivers the least of all. Here’s a list to start:
- Truckers in Hawaii earn the lowest at $40,000
- Alaska truckers make $42,000 a year
- Truck drivers in Wisconsin earn an average of $44,000 a year
- In Idaho and Nebraska truckers make $45,000
- Truck drivers living in Arizona and Colorado earn $46,000 a year
- Truckers in Washington State, New Mexico, South Dakota and Pennsylvania make $47,000 a year
- The median average salary for truck drivers in Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and North Carolina is $48,000
If you live in Hawaii you are automatically limited in the number of trucking jobs you can take. Furthermore, the best paying trucking jobs for OTR truckers aren’t going to apply to your situation. Life on an island will equate to lower annual salaries as a trucker. As for Alaska, the rough terrain, short driving season and low population levels account for the reasons why truckers make less money in this northern territory. If you are interested in making some serious cash while living in Alaska, check out ice road trucking. You have the opportunity to work only a few months a year while bringing in some plump pocket change, in the tune of a top salary for truck drivers. Check back with the lowest paying cities, and you’ll see that the only city on match with the lowest paying states is Phoenix. Ohio, Michigan and California are not on this list of poor paying states, which should give you some hope if you are looking for trucking jobs in Los Angeles, Columbus or Detroit. For those in Phoenix, however, Arizona is a state notorious for paying truckers in the lower range, so consider this your wake up call if you live or are planning to move to that state.
Lowest Paying Haul Types
While your geographic location has some bearing on how much you can anticipate earning a year as a truck driver, you can improve your situation by choosing hauls that pay more. In line with the topic of this article, here are the haul types that pay the least:
- Boat haulers make $34,000 a year
- Vocational truck drivers earn $35,000 annually
- Dry van trucking jobs bring in $44,000 a year
- Reefer trucking jobs offer a little more at $46,000 per year
If you are interested in boosting your income, while living in a low paying city and/or state, avoid the trifecta of taking these haul types. Instead look for the better paying trucking jobs, such as tanker loads, oversize loads, car haulers, and team driving jobs. These are going to help you balance out the low median salary you might be earning as a trucker.
More Ways to Increase Your Salary
Besides packing up and moving to a state like Mississippi, Wyoming or New York where truckers make the best salaries in the nation, there are things you can do as a trucker to improve your job salary. Start by looking at your credentials. What are your endorsements, and if you don’t have any, why not? Getting a CDL endorsement for tanker loads and hazardous materials hauls will grant you an immediate boost in your paycheck. These types of trucking jobs are exclusive to those with endorsements, which means you are specialized in your field. Specialization means more money.
If you have been hauling the same type of loads for months, or years, it’s time to find some variety, particularly if you are strictly a dry van hauler. We know that dry van trucking jobs are the easiest as you don’t have to worry with tarping and strapping. However, you are losing money because of your desire to drop and hook on every haul. Look for trucking jobs that force you to get out and move a little, and your paycheck will thank you for it. Also, having more varied experiences as a trucker places you at the top of the list when it comes to taking off the wall loads.
Trucking jobs that require a trucker with a proven ability to think on your feet will come your way, helping you find those hauls that are worth more money. Team driving jobs are another way to boost your basic income. Since the wheels on a team’s truck are almost always moving, you are going to make more money. You have less time spent with layovers and in between hauls, meaning you will work more but your wallet will get fatter because of it.
If you have struggled with being alone while on the road, being on a team has the added benefit of giving you a permanent work partner. You’ll need to learn to live with someone again, which might be difficult at first, but as your paychecks grow you’ll get over any discomfort. The key thing to take away from this is that even if you live in a city or state that has a low pay scale for truckers, there are ways to make the most of your income.