There are many payment forms for truck drivers, but one of the most common methods is pay per mile. But truck drivers earning potential through pay per mile can vary greatly. A few factors can affect a trucker driver’s average pay per mile, primarily whether the carrier pays by a short or practical mile (you may be shocked to learn the difference).

While it’s typical for Over the Road and Regional drivers to be paid by the mile, depending on the carrier, the average truck driver’s pay per mile will differ when calculating the miles driven by the driver and how much they are paid per mile. Discover how your pay is calculated and learn more about your earning potential with our comprehensive guide to help truck drivers calculate their earnings based on pay per mileage.

What is Pay Per Mileage?

So, what is a truck driver’s pay per mile, and how is pay per mileage calculated? Pay per mile, also called cents per mile (CPM), is how much a driver is paid based on cents per mile for every mile. Pay per mile can be calculated using the formula “miles x cents per mile = earnings.” However, it is crucial to understand that not all truck drivers’ pay per mile is equal, as some carriers may offer attractive cents per mile but then limit the number of miles. For instance, carriers could pay $1.00 a mile but limit that to 700 miles per week, significantly affecting a driver’s earnings.

Calculating Your Earnings

Other means of calculating dispatch miles include how they use the routing, but the most significant factor is whether a carrier uses short miles or practical miles.  Based on our calculations and industry standards, there can be a 4% difference between short and practical miles.

For example, companies offering the same pay rate may pay differently depending on whether they use short or practical miles. If a truck driver earns 65 cents a mile on short miles, the equivalent in practical miles would be 67.5 cents per mile. For the driver who runs 120,000 miles a year, paid by the practical mile, that is an additional $3,000 yearly for doing the same work!

Additional ways of calculating pay are city-to-city, zip-to-zip, or door-to-door.  The closer you get to the addresses, the more accurately your pay reflects what you do as a driver.  That is not that big of an issue if you are delivering to Kankakee, IL, but it is when you are delivering to Chicago.

Comparing Pay Per Mileage with Other Payment Structures

Other forms of payment beyond truck driver pay per mile are hourly and salary-based pay. Hourly pay is typical when the distance between pickup and drop locations is ‌less than 150 miles. An hourly-based pay structure can also include the time to load and unload the freight and time spent working with customers.

A fixed salary payment structure is generally less common; it would be a truck driver receiving the same amount, regardless of mileage, hours, or load hauled. Furthermore, a truck driver’s salary will range based on location, education, skillset, and experience.

Tips for Maximizing Earnings on Pay Per Mileage

Factors such as traffic, delays at locations, weather, or any other issue can affect a driver’s productivity and ultimately greatly impact their pay per mileage earnings. This is why it’s better to receive guaranteed minimums offered by carriers, as it can be very frustrating for a driver to drive fewer miles because of problems out of their control. 

To maximize truck driver pay per mile earnings, there are some strategies you can implement, such as fuel-efficient practices and better route planning. For better fuel management, try to idle the truck less, use an auxiliary power unit (APU) to cut fuel costs, and avoid driving aggressively and at extremely high speeds. Also, adequately planning your trips and deciding on breaks and fuel stops can make driving more efficient.

Understanding Your Contract

When reviewing your pay per mileage contract, see if the carrier uses short or practical miles. Are the weekly wages guaranteed? Is there a minimum pay guarantee? Carefully reviewing your contract and sticking to practical miles can lead to a major pay difference in the long term.

Minimum Pay Guarantee with Hoekstra Transportation

At Hoekstra Transportation, we are proud to have one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry. We treat our employees as people and show that appreciation with compensation.  We pay practical miles door-to-door and offer a minimum pay guarantee to protect our drivers from unforeseen circumstances.  If you don’t drive for us already, we encourage you to ensure you are being paid practical door-to-door miles. You should be paid what you deserve!