Independent truckers drive long distances as their employed counterparts, but they're responsible for all expenses, including gasoline, freight and maintenance. They subtract these expenses from their gross payments to determine their annual incomes. Independent truckers pick up and deliver items that manufacturers and wholesalers need to ship. They also inspect all loads and keep logs of all pickups and deliveries. If you work as an independent trucker, you can expect to earn gross pay averaging more than $170,000 annually.
Average Gross Pay
The median gross pay for an independent truck driver was $160,000 in 2012, according to the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association, or OOIDA, with median expenses of $119,500. This equals a net median income of $40,500 per year. The job site Indeed reported an average gross pay of $179,000 for independent truck drivers as of 2013. Indeed doesn't include operating expenses in its data.
Gross Pay by Region
Average gross pay for independent truck drivers varied significantly within the four U.S. regions in 2013, according to Indeed. In the Midwest, they earned the lowest gross pay of $133,000 in South Dakota and highest of $197,000 in Illinois. Those in the West made $116,000 to $193,000 per year in Hawaii and California, respectively. If you worked as an independent truck driver in Maine or New York, you'd earn an average gross pay of $153,000 or $216,000, respectively, which were the lowest and highest earnings in the Northeast. In the South region, you'd make the most in Washington, D.C., and least in Louisiana at $213,000 and $153,000, respectively.
The number of customers for which independent truckers have contracts can increase their gross pay. To reduce expenses and earn higher net incomes, they might set maximum freight weights for their shipments. If you work as an independent truck, a global positioning system will better help you route your pickups and deliveries and save on gas expenses. You may also earn higher gross payments by acquiring certain types of customers, such as couriers and aerospace manufacturers, who pay tractor-trailer truck drivers more. In 2012, for example, tractor-trailer truckers earned salaries of $58,140 and $56,770 working for couriers and aerospace manufacturers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- versus an industry average of $40,360 for all tractor-trailer truck drivers.
The BLS forecasts a 21 percent increase in employment for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, including independent truckers, from 2010 to 2020 -- an above-average growth rate. The number of available jobs for all truckers is contingent on the state of the economy. If the economy continues improving in the next decade, independent truckers may find more manufacturing and wholesale customers for which to deliver products -- from consumer products to electronics. When fuel prices rise, you may find fewer customers as an independent because manufacturers and wholesalers might use trains more often for long-distance shipments.