ROLLERCOASTER RIDE: There is still good money to be made behind the wheel for those willing to put in the kilometres.
ROLLERCOASTER RIDE: There is still good money to be made behind the wheel for those willing to put in the kilometres.

Is there a decent quid to be made driving trucks?

THERE is no doubt in my mind that there is a good income to be had as a truck driver.

I have watched many mates and acquaintances build their lives over the bonnet of a truck, raise a family, pay the house off by the time they are 50, give the kids a good education, have two late-model cars parked in the family garage and so forth.

For a fair chunk of my life, when rearing my kids, I did it at the wheel of a truck.

Yes, no doubt in my mind that a good living can be earned at driving a truck.

BUT, and it is a big 'but', the very nature of our largely de-regulated employment system in the road transport industry means there is a tail at the bottom end of the spectrum of take home pay for truck drivers.

There are drivers bringing home an average pay packet - spread over time - of not a whole lot more than what their teenage kids bring home from Macca's.

These drivers and their families are doing it hard. Some of these drivers could be casual working through labour hire companies.

The labour hire companies use the truck drivers to take up the slack in bigger truck companies and the casual work can be sporadic and irregular leading to low average income.

And like all industries there is a minority of employers with little regard for their drivers and pay them minimum wages, flout industrial law.

There is a broad spectrum of returns from a career as a truck driver, from 'doing nicely thank you' to those for whom making mortgage or rent payments is a continual battle.

With such a wide spectrum, it is difficult to create profiles of drivers who benefit - or do not - in a career as a truck driver, but that won't stop us from trying.

 

Driving is seen as a growth industry, expected to expand significantly over the next five years.
Driving is seen as a growth industry, expected to expand significantly over the next five years.

Viable career 

In my experience, doing well in a truck driving career boils down to one thing, being prepared to work big hours (or kilometres), a reasonable EBA and a stable support system.

This driver may live in a large provincial city or town, be driving long-haul, be prepared to be away from home for several days and nights at a time.

The pillars of long-term truck driving career success seem to be working for a reasonable boss, a reasonable EBA and a good support system at home.

The employer, whether a boss or a company, will show respect for you as a driver as you have for him or her - even though, as in all jobs, you may well feel cranky with the bosses from time to time.

The EBA will be nowhere near gold-plated or benevolent, but will offer the basics including an acceptable pay rate, Super, sick and holiday leave.

As part of the EBA, there will be a reasonable per-kilometre rate. In spite of the criticism it attracts, long-haul drivers do well on trip money if they are 'mile makers'.

The successful long-term high earners I have observed often have a home environment that is supportive with a partner and family who accept the long hours of the driver (male or female) and has an understanding of fatigue pressure

Expected income for this driver at the wheel of a long-haul multiple combination truck can be around the $100,000pa mark.

To achieve this type of income, the driver will be averaging the equivalent of at least four 'shifts' a week under Basic Fatigue Management (BFM).

That's big miles, upwards of 4500km per week. To maintain this income you need an employer with good gear and support at home, but it is not unusual.

2018 Truck Driver status

But many drivers fall short of the $100k per year mark of course.

There are government websites analysing income of truck drivers from advertisements and the recommended rates of pay from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

In 2019, truck driving is seen as a growth industry, expected to expand significantly over the next five years.

In 2017 there were 184,200 truck drivers employed in Australia, a figure projected to grow to 200,400 by 2022.

According to the Federal Government, full-time truck drivers' average earnings are marginally above the national weekly average of $1586 for all occupations (2018).

According to the government analysis, 91 per cent of truck drivers are in full-time work, much higher than the all-jobs average of 68 percent.

Full-time truck drivers average around 48 hours of work per week compared to 40 hours for the all-jobs average.

The average age of truck drivers is now 47 years old compared to the national worker average age of 40 years.

And in spite of valiant efforts in recent years to increase the number of women entering the industry, it is still male dominated with only 3.6 per cent of workers being female.

In an analysis of truck driver advertisements, a full-time B-double driver (MC) based in NSW could expect to gross between $80,000 and $119,000 per year.

A Heavy Rigid (HR) driver based in Canberra could expect to gross between $70,000 and $90,000pa.

A driver spending his or her time in a Medium Rigid (MR) based in Sydney will receive pay between $40,000 and $60,000 per year.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has published the 2018 Pay Guide for long distance operations.

For a full-time driver at the bottom end of the eight grades (entry level) will pull around $800 per week while a Multiple Combination (MC), Grade 7 or 8, will attract about $100 per week more.

An MC driver working on the Pay Guide recommendations will be paid around 46 cents per kilometre which translates to around $2000 gross per week over four BFM shifts.

These rates also attract benefits which a casual driver will not get.

However a casual driver may receive 53 cents a kilometre to cover the absence of those benefits, but there is no guarantee of hours.

Truck driving has the ability to attract incomes that make it a viable career and the demand for drivers is growing.

This demand is unlikely to dwindle anytime soon as ageing drivers step down from the cab.

There is a career path from light trucks, through the grades to the long distance multiple combinations where substantial income be derived, although this way of life will not appeal to all drivers.

So yes, there is a quid in truck driving but it is not a gold mine on the per-hour basis, and it's hard work.

There is good money for those willing to put in the kilometres.

Editor's note: The discussion here comes from the writer's own payslips, industry analysis and recommended pay rates. How does this match your experience? Let us know at editor@bigrigs.com.au so we can dig deeper.

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