What CDL Jobs Pay the Most?

Right Now

As I write this (Early Spring of 2019), the best paying CDL jobs in the U.S. are in the oil fields of Western Texas/New Mexico and the oil fields of North Dakota/Eastern Montana. The problem for the new driver is: oil field companies don’t normally hire drivers right out of school. However, these aren’t normal times—and there are many exceptions. I’ll discuss those exceptions below.

Regular Path

Until recently, a driver’s career followed a fairly predictable pattern:

  • 2 months of driver school (5 weeks for school and the rest getting a job)
  • 6–8 months working Over The Road (OTR) for a “starter company” ($2,500–$3,000/ month)
  • 18–24 months working OTR at a “better company” ($4,500–$5,000/month)

After this (a total of 2–3 years), either keep driving OTR or change to local driving.

Note: Local driving usually pays a little less than OTR ($4,000–$4,500/month), but it gets you home every night (or, almost every night).

Note: A “better company” will probably have a “must have 6-months of experience” rule.

Fast Track

The best way to bypass the “starter company” is to have a friend that desperately needs a driver—a local contact at a local company. Someone who is willing to spend extra time and money getting you trained. Large companies are less likely to make exceptions to the “must have 6-months of experience” rule. Companies are often restricted by their insurance companies. Insurance companies charge more for drivers with less experience. Smaller companies might have more leeway.

You see this sort of thing with vocational carriers. A company that wants to hire a heavy equipment operator (e.g., bulldozer) that also has a CDL, so the driver can move the bulldozer to a new job site. Or carnival drivers—a carnival/sideshow company wants to hire a ride operator that also has a CDL, so the driver can move the amusement park ride on the trailer.

Exceptions

Right now, things are booming in the oil fields. Oil field companies are scrambling for drivers ($6,000–$7,500/month). While this continues, the best paying jobs will be in the oil fields. This boom might continue for years or it might end next week.

Note: Life in the oil fields is difficult and dangerous, and it requires a lot of physically demanding work. You spend proportionally more time outdoors in the weather. The weather will be hot or cold or both. You will get rained on and snowed on. Housing is difficult to find. Driving involves using dirt roads and mud roads. If you are lucky, the oil field company will find you a trailer to sleep in. The hours are long. The money is good, but this isn’t for everyone. Oil field jobs are not recommended for new drivers.

The Oil Boom’s Effect on Everybody

While the boom continues in the oil fields, other drivers are benefiting. As some of the most senior (read: most skilled) drivers move to the oil fields, it is creating driver shortages in other segments of the transportation industry. This puts positive pressure on driver opportunities and driver wages.

The Future

No one can predict the future. Heavy demand for drivers in the oil fields will either continue or not continue. No one can know.

It is a fair guess that demand for Commercial Drivers will continue to be strong, especially if the economy continues to be strong.

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