CDL Driver Resource Guide

New to the Trucking Industry?

Check out some of our commonly asked questions all student truck drivers should know the answers to.

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.

Stop pay is a type of compensatory pay that truck drivers get for performing scheduled stops on a load that they are hauling. It is common practice in the truck industry that the pickup and final delivery are always included with the load so normally drivers do not receive any additional stop pay for the pickup or delivery. Most of the time, stop pay is only offered for stops that are in the middle of the initial pickup and final delivery. However, some companies do offer stop pay for all stops even the final delivery so keep this in mind when comparing job offers.

When comparing stop pay policy between companies be sure to take into account the estimated time it might take to complete a stop.  One company might offer a higher stop pay amount, but the average time on the companies stop might take 2-3 times longer.  If the stops are taking a long time to get finished then the higher stop pay usually won’t make up for the driver’s increased down time.  The problem with long stop times is that they burn up the driver’s available hours for the day.  In the long run too many stops may decrease the amount of miles a driver is able to receive in a given week.

Drop and hook is a common term within the trucking industry that refers to a situation when a driver delivers a load at the final delivery location for a customer and all the driver has to do is drop the trailer and simply pick up a new trailer.  The benefit of drop and hook freight is that the driver does not have to spend time waiting to be unloaded.  Drop and hook loads are also desirable because it allows the driver to better plan out their day.  Drop and hook loads also decrease the chances of something going wrong on the load assignment that ends up causing a driver to have more down time. For example, drivers that operate on a drop and hook loads will never experience detention time because there is no need to wait for a customer to unload the trailer.  When researching future trucking companies, one good question to ask is to find how much drop and hook freight the company operates.

Detention time is the amount of time it takes for either a shipper or receiver to load or unload the driver during a scheduled appointment.  For example, a driver has a scheduled delivery for 10:00 AM.  The driver arrives 1 hour early and the receiver is unable to take the driver early.  The driver waits for his appointment time.  At 10:00 AM the receiver is unable to take the driver.  The driver ends up waiting until 2:00 PM until the receiver is able to start offloading the driver.  It ends up taking the receiver 1 hour to fully unload the driver.  In this scenario the driver would have a total of 5 hours of detention.  The load appointment was scheduled for 10:00 AM and the drivers load was not fully finished until 3:00 PM.

Driver typically do not like any amount of detention time because if the driver remained on duty during the scheduled delivery then the driver’s clock would have continued to run.

Many trucking companies pay the driver an additional per hour detention time pay for any detention time that has occurred.  Common practice is that drivers must give the shipper or receiver a standard time of 2 hours of detention time before any additional compensation is due.  In the above example, the driver with 5 hours of detention time would only be owed a total of 3 hours of detention pay.  When comparing trucking companies be sure to ask what the company’s detention time policy is.  How much per hour does that company pay per hour for detention and how many hours of detention is given for free? Also, some companies do not automatically pay detention time, instead, they require the driver to ask for detention time on a case by case basis so be sure to get all of these questions answered when researching various job offers.

Like detention time, layover pay is a type of add pay that some trucking companies issue to drivers when they spend a predefined amount of time not moving because of a lack of dispatch or load assignment. The criteria for being eligible for layover varies between trucking company. Some companies may require the driver to be sitting for 24 hours with no movement on the tractor.  Other companies may not pay anything for layover.  If trucking companies refuse to pay layover then the driver has little protection in case the company is slow on freight or unable to keep the driver properly pre-planned. Ideally, truck drivers should never want to experience layover pay because layover pay will usually not compensate the driver the same as hauling freight.  However, companies that offer layover should give the driver a little more peace of mind than companies that don’t.

Many companies will pay the same rate of pay regardless of whether the truck is loaded or empty, but drivers must be careful when researching potential trucking companies because some companies have decided to pay the driver a lower rate of pay when the truck is dispatched empty. Companies that pay less when the truck is empty ends up hurting the drivers overall pay.

For example, a company might offer .46 CPM for loaded miles and only .40 CPM for empty miles.  The difference in pay makes it tough for potential recruits to determine what their effective rate of pay will be which makes it more challenge to compare offers between trucking companies.  This is due to the uncertainty in empty miles.  In any given week how many miles will the driver operate empty?   For example: Let’s say a driver ran 2500 miles for the week.  2000 miles were loaded and 500 miles were empty.  Since 20% of the drivers miles were empty it means that 20% of the drivers pay will be at the lower rate.  In this example the drivers overall pay would be:

2000 * $0.46 = $920

500 * $0.40 = $200

Total gross pay is $1,120 for 2500 miles which equals an effective CPM rate of $0.448 CPM.

Carriers will justify the lower rate of pay because the company is not making money for empty miles in-between loads.  They might also say that they make up for the lower empty rate of pay by offering a higher loaded rate of pay.  Whatever the case, it is not the driver’s responsibility to determine how a loaded/empty split pay package will affect them.  It you are thinking about working for a company that offers this type of pay package be sure to estimate what your overall effective rate of pay will be.

APU is short of Auxiliary Power Unit.  Some trucks have APU’s equipped to help reduce the tractors idle cost by offering a more fuel saving solution to idling the tractor. The APU is a self-contained generator that powers up the auxiliary equipment within the cab of the tractor.  Some APU’s are even capable of running the heat and AC within the tractor. The higher the cost of diesel the better return on investment an APU will provide.  Since APU’s only use a portion of the fuel that idling the tractor would the need for APU increase as the cost of diesel increases.

Auxiliary power units (repeatedly referred to as APUs) remove the need to run truck engines on idle while parked and are regularly used by truck drivers to monitor fuel use. One drawback of these units is that they normally weigh several hundred pounds, and could be a problem for drivers who carry close to highest weight limits. With the president’s latest expansion of the MAP-21 bill dealing with state-by-state APU regulations, this may be confusing to drivers who habitually cross state lines.

Below we’ve placed a helpful guide, created by fleet tracking systems company Track Your Truck, that notifies drivers just how much APU weight is exempt in each state.

APU Exemption Guide


A power inverter is a device that hooks to the tractors battery supply and switches the tractors DC current and turns it into usable AC current.  Some tractors have power inverters already pre-installed by the manufacture. When the tractor does not come equipped with an APU from the factory after market power inverters can be installed in order to provide the driver with a usable source of power.  Drivers use power invertors to supply power to coffee makers, microwaves, TV’s, Etc.

Some trucking companies prohibit the use of power inverters in their tractors or they will restrict the wattage limit of the device in their tractors. If you are a driver looking for a new carrier to work for then be sure to ask the company if they allow power inverters and what their limit is on the device.

CSA stands for Carrier Safety Administration and is short for FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). The FMCSA offers a way for the public to get additional information about a trucking carrier that they otherwise might be difficult to find elsewhere. If you are a driver looking to research a prospective employer you may want to take some time and look them up within the SMS (Safety Measurement System) 

A PSP Report (Pre-Employment Screening Program) is a report that some trucking companies use to help make more informed hiring decisions about potential drivers who have applied to work for them.  The PSP report offers a commercial driver’s 5 years crash history and 3 year inspection history.

Any driver that wants to request a copy of their driving record can do so in a couple different ways:

Option 1:  Visit HireRight and request a copy of your background reports which are maintained by hire right.

Option 2:  Contact the state where your license is out of and request a copy directly from the states DMV.

If you are a driver and you are looking to dispute false information that has been reported on your PSP report then you may be able to do so by visiting.