CDL Driver Resource Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

It may seem very easy to compare different pay packages, but the truth of the matter is that there are so many different pay packages out their within the trucking industry that not all trucking jobs are created equal.  OTR driving jobs are easy to find, but sometimes comparing companies to each other can be challenging. For example, one trucking company advertises .50 CPM while another company advertises .45 CPM.  Which company is giving the truck driver the best offer?   At face value the company paying .50 CPM looks like they are offering the highest pay. However, the truth is in the details. Do the different CPM rates include fuel bonuses, safety bonuses, or sign on bonuses?  Does the driver’s pay fluctuate based on sliding scales or banded pay zones?  Does the rate of pay change based off of home time?  To find out what the trucking company is truly paying we need to dissect the pay package down to the base rate. The company paying .45 CPM may in fact be the higher paying job if the.50 cpm offer includes a total of .10 cpm in various bonuses that the driver could potentially lose.

When searching for your next job be cautious about what the trucking companies advertise.  Many times, the pay package that is advertised by the trucking company takes into account all bonuses, and assumes best case scenarios.  We do not believe that trucking companies are intentionally trying to mislead potential truck drivers and we do not want to paint truck companies in a negative light.  Many trucking companies are just trying to compete with their competitors so they intentionally advertise the highest rate of pay. They leave it up to driver to ask questions about the specifics.

Finding the best paying trucking jobs is hard to do, but by asking the right questions and comparing the job offers the right way can help driver decided what offer is best for them.  OTR drivers should be able to find the best truck driving jobs with patience and proper research.

This is a tough question to answer because the “BEST” job is going to be subjective based on who you ask and the needs of the driver looking for employment.  Every company is going to offer something different. Some trucking companies might offer higher pay while others might get the driver more home time.  One challenge that drivers face is that it takes time to evaluate different jobs and compare them to one another. It is the driver’s responsibility to judge for themselves whether or not the offer they have received is a good offer.  We encourage drivers to do research and compare what each trucking company offers.  Doing so should provide the driver with enough knowledge to successfully make an informed decision about what trucking company has the best driving job for them.  Accepting a job offer because it pays the most may not be the best for a driver looking for more home time.  The opposite is also true. As long as the job is best for what the driver needs then that’s all that matters.

Some trucking companies have established a sliding pay scale as the way they pay their Over-the-Road drivers.  Typically, a sliding pay scale will pay drivers a different CPM depending on the length of haul for the load they are on.   The longer the length of haul the lower the CPM & the shorter the length of haul the higher the CPM. Since the driver’s pay under a sliding pay scale changes based on the length of haul it makes it difficult for drivers to fully determine what their overall CPM will be before accepting the job.

Here is an example of a potential sliding pay scale:

0-100 Miles        = $0.52 cpm

101-200 Miles    = $0.50 cpm

201-300 Miles    = $0.48 cpm

301-400 Miles    = $0.46 cpm

401-600 Miles    = $0.44 cpm

601+ Miles        = $0.42 cpm

Recruiters of trucking companies that offer sliding pay scales will normally tell the driver that sliding pay scales are advantageous because they compensate the driver more for shorter length of hauls. The higher pay is designed to reward the driver for the extra time wasted on short loads. Nevertheless, potential drivers of sliding pay scale companies must keep in mind that they will be compensated the least amount for long length of hauls.  If the driver gets nothing but long length of hauls it means their effective CPM pay will be on the low end of the scale.

This type of pay scale is not as common within the transportation industry, but the basic premise is that trucking companies will pay CDL drivers different rates of pay depending on the area of the country that they run freight in.  Drivers who are willing to run in the northeast or normally more valuable than drivers who want to run freight only in the south.  Some companies are willing to compensate drivers a higher rate of pay for running in less desirable areas.  This type of pay can come in the form of an added bonus or it may be added directly to the truck driver’s base pay. If you are a potential driver thinking about going to work for a truck line that has a banded pay package then make sure you fully understand what each area pays and also try to find out how often the company runs in each of those areas.

We have already talked about the various ways that trucking companies configure their pay packages to compensate drivers for the miles they drive. The most common is straight mile pay, sliding pay scales, and banded pay scales. However, what we have not discussed yet are the methods that trucking companies use to calculate the # of miles each load will pay out for based on distance of the trip. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a drivers pay, especially when it comes to lease purchase drivers and owner operators. Many drivers fail to get answers to these questions before hiring on with a new company. Often times they find out in orientation or after they have started driving which may cause them to find themselves wishing they would have done more research.

Let’s look at a general example of a driver getting pre-planned on a load assignment to see the differences in routing options:

Pick Up:
Walmart Distribution Center
1201 SE Moberly Ln
Bentonville, AR 72712

Walmart Supercenter
1326 Bush River Road
Columbia, SC 29210

According to Google Maps there are 3 different route options that the driver could take to get the load delivered.


routing options 1

The first option is the quickest route in terms of time at 13 Hrs and 38 minutes, but it is not the shortest route in terms of miles.

The 3rd option on the list has the least amount of miles at 922 miles, but this route takes approximately 1 hr and 15 mins longer to get the load delivered over option 1.

In this example, if the driver takes the route with the shortest miles they would actually be taking the longest route in terms of time. So here is the point.  As a truck driver – are you going to take the fastest route – or the shortest route?  In truck driving -time is money – a driver only has so many hours to burn. The answer to this questions may depend on how the trucking company is paying you.  Practical mileage pay & short route miles are the 2 most common calculation methods.We will discuss each option in more detail below, but the general point is that drivers should research how each trucking company calculates their mileage per load assignment.

Many companies will advertise that they pay practical miles, but what are practical miles? Practical mileage is a routing option and mileage calculation method that trucking companies use to determine: #1) The route a truck driver will actually take from point A to point B to get a load delivered using the most common sense truck route and #2) the # of miles that the load should pay.
Companies who pay practical mileage will typically pay for 99% of the actual mileage it takes to get a load delivered as long as the driver does not deviate from the practical route or intentionally go out of route. If you are a driver that is looking to maximize your income potential and not get short changed for the miles you run then you may want to consider working for a company that pays practical mileage pay. Practical mileage pay is by far the most preferred way that drivers want to be paid.

The most common alternative to practical mileage pay is short route miles.  Short route miles are just what it sounds like.  It is a mileage calculation from point A to point B taking the shortest possible route which may include non-preferred truck routes.  The problem with this method of calculating miles is that is ends up short changing a driver on miles they actual drove.  Taking the shortest route may actually cost the driver a lot more time because the shortest route in terms of miles may actually be the longest route in terms of time.  Drivers know that time is money so many drivers will intentionally take the shortest time route, but doing so will increase the # of miles they drive which in turn leads to more fuel being spent. Short route mileage pay is one way that companies use to try to circumvent paying a driver for the work that they perform.  Common rule of thumb is that the short route calculation method will short a driver between 5% – 8% of the actual miles they drive over the course of a load.  This does not mean that all short route paying trucking companies are bad companies.  There are several of companies that pay short route miles who end up being great places to work at.

When the price of diesel started getting out of control transportation companies started implementing fuel bonuses as a way to incentivize drivers to control their fuel cost. Not all companies offer fuel bonuses and typically fuel bonuses are only paid to company drivers. The theory is that paying drivers a monthly, quarterly, or annually fuel performance bonus for getting better fuel efficiency and higher MPG would help the company reduce their total fuel bill.  There are many factors that contribute towards the driver’s fuel economy. If the company does offer a fuel performance bonus the driver should try to find out what determines the payout of the bonus. A driver obtaining their fuel bonus can sometimes be outside of their control.

There are many variables that contribute to a truck driver’s fuel economy. Below is list of variables to keep in mind.  Some things the driver can help improve while others our outside the drivers control.

  1. What is the weight of the load the driver is hauling? Heavier loads = less fuel economy
  1. What area of the country is the CDL driver is operating in? Areas that have more hills and routes that have more stop and go traffic will decrease fuel economy.
  1. What is the rear end gear ratio and the transmission setup?
  1. Is the truck governed and is the HP of the truck restricted?
  1. Does the tractor have super single or dual tires?
  1. Temperature outside and weather conditions.
  1. How much down time the driver has with the truck idling or APU usage.
  1. Did the driver use blended fuels – winter fuel vs summer fuel?

The overall point is that fuel bonuses are good in practice, but it is safe to say that even the best, most fuel conscious driver can end up not getting their fuel bonus if there are variables that are outside the driver’s control.

Trucking companies spend a lot of money on insurance, deductibles, and claims for accidents where they are held liable. In an attempt to reduce this cost, many trucking companies have implemented safety bonus programs that are designed to reward truck drivers for staying safe.

There are many different types of safety bonuses and companies have designed their programs to pay differently.  Some transportation companies will pay drivers an additional CPM for every mile they drive incident free.  Other times trucking companies will pay truck drivers a quarterly and annually safety that will only pay out if the driver has remained incident free within that time frame.

When researching the various safety bonus programs make sure you are asking the correct questions to determine the exact eligibility for any of the mentioned bonuses.