Pros and Cons of Common Truck Driver Pay Structures

January 22, 2021

Per Hour? Per Mile? Which Truck Driver Pay Option is Best?

There’s a lot to love about trucking.

It’s a chance to see different places. It’s an escape from the typical 9-5 grind. However, every trucker or aspiring trucker knows that pay is still atop the list of things to look for.

But it’s not just about what a driver is paid. This can vary based on driver experience, company policy, and economic conditions.

Knowing how truck driver pay structures work can help drivers get a more accurate picture of whether their compensation will make each trip worth it.

Buckle up as we explore common compensation options in trucking, plus the ups and downs of each.

Pay Per Mile: Make the Most of the Journey

While most people are on the job, they’re watching their time. Truckers, however, watch their miles.

Some parcel services and passenger transportation companies pay by the mile as well, though this system is usually most common in trucking.

As a model of truck driver pay, per mile has an obvious benefit. Counting miles means counting money. There’s something satisfying in knowing that every mile traveled will pay off – literally.

The main drawback with this option is idle road time. Traffic congestion, accident cleanups, and roadwork can leave truckers on the job but not making any money. Luckily, idle time isn’t just a problem for drivers – trucking companies dislike it too and are always looking to reduce it.

It wastes fuel and wears on a vehicle – plus it’s bad for the environment. For companies with dozens of trucks that travel thousands of miles regularly, this adds up fast.

Good logistical planning makes mileage the premier pay model for many truck drivers.

Pay Per Hour: Make Every Hour on the Road Count

For the person who left an office, retail, or construction job to be a truck driver, pay per hour may feel most natural.

It’s pretty easy to calculate each paycheck, and drivers know that whether they’re making headway toward their destination or they’re stuck in a jam, they are being compensated.

For some drivers, this is more appealing than going by the mile. All those hours add up on a paycheck. However, the main drawback is that those hours add up in another way as well.

Long hours behind the wheel take their toll on the body and mind. They can lead to conditions like highway hypnosis which can cause accidents and leave mental fog that remains even after the driver exits the cab.

Depending on the truck, driver skill, and route, sometimes it can be more profitable and less exhausting to fit more miles in an hour, than to try and drive more hours overall. When confronted with job options with different pay structures, some quick math may be needed to compare the two.

Pay Per Load: Make Big Bucks When Business is Good

While lots of common jobs pay by the hour, there are also plenty that pay by the project.

Some professionals, such as freelancers, get paid based on each individual task they complete. Think of consultants who charge by the session, or hospitals that charge for each test. The trucking equivalent here is pay per load.

With the holiday shopping season always being a busy time for truck drivers, it’s a popular time to jump into the industry either as a side hustle or as a first-timer who wants to see exactly what the buzz is all about.

The problem? Ask anyone who gets paid by project, task, and load. The work isn’t always consistent. Even if current jobs are priced well, don’t bank on those numbers sticking around all year.

Pay Per Period: Make Money by the Week, Month, or Year

Anyone who has ever worked in management knows all about pay periods. Rather than being paid based on the total hours or miles worked within that period, this system sees a flat payout.

It can be based on a period of two weeks, any number of months, or even a year. For the seasoned truck driver, salary options can look the best on paper. They provide stability in terms of what will be made – but what’s made doesn’t always necessarily equate to what’s done.

For example, a driver could have an easy time out on the road during one period, and a hectic one the next – with no change in compensation for the added stress.

Some people may say the unpredictability fits right into an industry like trucking, but other people prefer to see truck driver pay models where extra effort or extra miles means extra money.

What Benefits Complement Good Truck Driver Pay?

Money matters, but base pay in any form isn’t all truck drivers look for. No matter the pay structure, the right perks can make any option better.

Bonuses are another method for rewarding drivers. They can be paid out for safe driving practices, or even for referring others who sign on to become drivers. Paid vacations and holidays are also a nice touch to show drivers they matter.

Quality equipment with onsite repairs and maintenance are also highly valuable – every mile or hour is a little easier when the truck is built and maintained to industry standards.

Overall, nothing can substitute for the right pay structure, but a lot can complement it.

Competitive Truck Driver Pay Helps You Enjoy a Rewarding Career

While fair pay is a universal concept that every worker is invested in, the best way to get it is debatable.

Luckily, the truck driving industry has many structures for drivers to try out. While each truck driver pay model has its perks, pay per mile can help drivers get the most out of their journey.

However, pay per hour, yearly salaries, or pay per load can all be viable options if the conditions are right. For those who are considering a career in the industry, the conditions are right to start that journey here.

What Does the Typical Pay Structure Look Like at Hermes?

At Hermes, we try to keep drivers motivated and reward dedicated, responsible people. This is why every new driver receives a starting pay of 58* cents per mile (CPM), then the pay rate is adjusted according to the driver’s overall performance. To figure out the adjusted rate, we start with a base of 50* CPM, and then:

  • +3 CPM for driving during the holiday season
  • +2 CPM for driving more than 21 days in a month
  • +2 CPM for driving more than one year and 100,000 miles with Hermes
  • +2 CPM for keeping idling time under 5% of the total
  • +2 CPM for averaging more than 8 MPG
  • +1 CPM for every driver you refer that is with Hermes for over two months
  • +1 CPM for having more than two years of driving experience
  • +1 CPM for averaging more than 10 pickups or deliveries per week
  • -1 CPM for bad driving habits like speeding, harsh braking, or improper behavior
  • -2 CPM for violations that add points to the company record


We honor company loyalty by providing a $100 bonus for every month of driving with Hermes. We also recognize driver achievements by adding 2 CPM for the five drivers with the highest miles per gallon on their trucks!

*Starting pay depends on the rate per mile for Hermes, so if the cost to the company is lower, we can raise the starting pay.

Aspiring truckers, or current truckers looking for a change, we invite you to apply at Hermes. We offer pay per mile positions with up to 70 miles per hour along with safety bonuses. Get access to ongoing training and top-quality equipment with onsite maintenance and repairs provided – apply today.

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