Independent Truckers Work Longer, Earn More Than Company Drivers

July 18, 2019 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Self-employed truckers often work longer and make more money than company drivers who are paid by the mile or per hour.

That’s the finding of a Convoy analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey, 2005-2017. Convoy is a digital freight brokerage.

But the analysis compiled by Aaron Terrazas, Convoy’s director of economic research demonstrated that earning more as a so-called owner-operator in the freight industry isn’t a slam dunk.

SOME EARN LESS

The top 10 percent of owner-operators earn 52 percent more per hour than company drivers. That’s about $19,200 more annually after controlling for demographic factors, according to Convoy. But the bottom 10 percent earn 30 percent less per hour, about $11,000 less over a year.

Owner-operators also work about 2 percent more hours. That amounts to about 1.1 more hours on the job each week than company drivers. But part of the data includes a period prior to rules that force truckers to track their hours using electronic logging devices. The regulations have reduced drivers violating federal limits and cut into hours worked.

SHARE OF DRIVERS

About 11 percent of truck drivers nationwide are self-employed. That share has held steady since the early 1990s, Terrazas said. It includes drivers who own and operate their own trucks, and drivers who lease their trucks and may operate under another carrier’s authority.

Controlling for other factors such as age, education, family status and sex, owner-operator truck drivers earn about 5 percent more per hour than company drivers. That amounts to about $1,900 annually.

But company and independent drives tend to make up distinct demographic groups. When not controlling for those differences, owner-operators earn about $6,000 more annually than company drivers.

Terrazas found that trucking compares well to other forms of self-employment that have a similar demographic profile.

Both earnings and hours are lower than payroll workers among the self-employed in construction and mining, he said. The analysis also showed the self-employed in food service work longer hours but earn less than wage and salary workers in that industry.

Alan Adler December 19, 2018
New federal data show driving a big rig is among the most dangerous occupations, with record number of heavy-duty trucking deaths in 2017.

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