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How Do Team Truck Drivers Get Paid?

August 2nd, 2022

Samantha Dwyer

Samantha Dwyer

Samantha joined the Anderson Trucking Family in November of 2012 as a specialized fleet manager and managed a fleet of mixed company and contractor drivers. In the spring of 2014, she transitioned to the driver administration department, and began working in contractor services. While in contractor services, Samantha familiarized herself with all processes, procedures and information in regards to driver contracts, pay and settlements. She is currently the operations support manager and oversees both the contractor services department as well as the driver settlement department and leads both of her teams to ensure our drivers receive the highest level of service required to help navigate their accounts and settlements on a daily basis.

Are you ready to become a team truck driver? Are you wondering how you’ll get paid? 

If so, you’re not alone. Tons of drivers are wondering the same thing and asking us questions about pay.

Depending on whether you’re driving as a team of company drivers or independent contractors, you’ll get paid differently. Without a clear understanding of how you’ll get paid and what’ll be expected of you, you can set yourself up to fail. 

As the operations support manager at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), my job largely involves money: making sure our drivers get paid, working with state departments to cover fines, helping drivers understand what they need for their taxes and much, much more. That means it’s also my job to help you understand how team driver pay works. 

To make this easy, I’ll divide team pay into two sections: company drivers and independent contractors. For the purpose of this article, independent contractors can refer to either drivers who lease their trucks or who already own their trucks. 

Not only will I explain the ins and outs of team pay, but I’ll also cover some tips for success so you can feel financially successful as a team driver. 


Here we go!

Drivers passing keys to each other.

How Team Drivers Are Paid: Cents-Per-Mile or Percentage Pay

First thing’s first: Let’s start with the basics. How are team drivers paid? 

Team drivers can be paid by cents-per-mile (CPM) or percentage pay — it all depends on how the carrier pays their drivers. 

Whether or not you’re paid accessorials or fuel surcharges is also up to the trucking company you decide to work for. Every carrier is different, so it’s important to understand how you’re being paid before you sign on with a company. 

Sometimes companies will even let you choose which type of pay program you’d like to be on — CPM or percentage pay. Again, make sure you’re comfortable with how the carrier will pay you before you sign on with them. 

To learn more about different ways you’re paid as a truck driver, check out our article on truck driver pay structure.  

How Much Will I Make As a Team Truck Driver?

How much money you’ll make as a team truck driver depends on several factors: which carrier you drive for, how motivated you are to succeed and what kind of freight you’re hauling. 

Some carriers obviously pay their drivers better than others — that’s a simple fact that everyone in the industry knows. It’s also an industry-wide fact that your motivation will drive your income. Obviously, the more you drive and the more miles you put under your belt, the more money you’ll make. 

If, as a team, you don’t run much, or you stop at a truck stop every night for your breaks instead of running almost nonstop, you likely won’t be a top earner. However, if you keep running through the night and keep the truck moving almost constantly, you could be a top earner.

In some cases, because freight that teams haul typically needs to get there quickly (whether that’s because it’s an important item or it’s perishable), the loads pay more. That isn’t always the case, but you may see this in the industry. 

Additionally, the Department of Defense (DOD), requires teams to haul their military freight so that one driver can always monitor the freight and the truck doesn’t stop moving for more than a short window of time. This freight pays incredibly well, though it doesn’t come without its stressors and drivers need to each earn their own security clearance. If you want to haul this freight, you can make upwards of $10,000 per driver each week. 

Ultimately, team drivers typically do earn more money than solo team drivers. That’s simply because — whether a trucking company pays you more or less percentage-wise or per-mile as a team driver — you’re going to be running far more miles than a solo driver because you have double the manpower. 

While it could take a solo driver a few days to move a load, it might only take one day for a team. You significantly increase your load capacity as a team and therefore open up your earning opportunities. 

Truck Driver Team Pay: Independent Contractors

As a team that either owns the truck or leases it, the pay can be a little complicated. 

Industry-wide, it’s common for one driver (usually the lessee or the truck owner) to take on the full financial responsibilities for the truck. Because of that, the lessee/owner receives 100 percent of the pay and then they’re responsible for paying the second driver. Once deductions are taken out of the settlement for the truck payment, maintenance account, insurance and other expenses, the settlement check goes to the lessee/owner. Then they pay their driving partner.

Ideally, the lessee/owner should have a business set up (more on this later) so they can provide the second driver with a tax document at the end of the tax year. That could be a W2 or a 1099 Form. Think of the second driver as a company driver for the first driver.

Assuming full financial responsibility means all of the money the team earns goes to the lessee/owner — even including things like sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses and customer bonuses. They get everything and it’s their responsibility to pay the second driver accordingly. 

Typically the team comes up with an agreement on how much money each driver will receive. Because the lessee/owner takes on the extra burden of financial responsibility, oftentimes they take a larger cut of the money. Some teams will split their earnings 60/40 and some will split it 70/30. Other teams are spouses so they don’t care how the money is split because it’s all going to the same account anyway. 

Either way, having an agreement in place before you start driving together is absolutely crucial — no matter how much you trust each other. 

Truck Driver Team Pay: Company Drivers 

Unlike independent contractors, both drivers are paid. Because company drivers don’t have a truck payment or insurance payments to think about — the company covers that — they have very little financial responsibility. 

Company drivers can be paid either a CPM rate or a percentage of the load revenue. Most commonly they’re paid a CPM rate. 

Company drivers may each take the same cut — whether they’re both being paid the same CPM rate or percentage of the load revenue. For instance, the truck as a whole could earn 80 CPM and then that’s split in half and each driver earns 40 CPM. 

Conversely, each driver may earn their own rate that varies slightly based on seniority with the company. For instance, one driver with seniority might earn 43 CPM while their teammate earns 40 CPM.

As an example, let’s say you collectively run 1,000 loaded miles as a team for a load. One driver with seniority will earn $430 and one will earn $400.

Remember: Team drivers are paid for all loaded miles run. You’ll be making a CPM rate on the miles both you and your partner run. This even split of earnings happens even if one driver drives a lot more than the other driver. 

As a team, that means you might want to split the workload or accept the fact that one team member might do more of the work but you’ll both be paid the same amount. I’ll explain how this can be problematic later in this article. 

Company drivers are very separate. They’re each paid separately and get their own settlement check sent into a different account. That means they can elect to have different deductions taken out of their settlement check for insurance, retirement accounts and flexible health spending accounts. What one driver does with their money doesn’t affect the other.

Because company drivers are considered company employees, the company provides each driver with a W2 at the end of the month. You’d use this form when you file taxes each year to show that you paid taxes on your income.

3 Tips for Financial Success as a Team Truck Driver

Team driving isn’t easy. While many drivers start driving as a team simply for the money, they don’t always think about whether or not they can handle it. 

One of the big items of contention between you and your partner can be pay. If your partner feels like they’re working harder than you but you’re both making the same amount, it can become problematic. 

With best practices in place, you can avoid some of these financial disputes. 

Two people shaking hands.

1. Make a Contract

Before you start driving as a team of independent contractors, you need to make a contract or financial agreement that you both sign off on. This should explain how the money will be divided and paid out and what percentage of the earnings each of you will take home. Make sure you also note how bonuses will be divided and who is financially responsible for the truck and any payments associated with it.

Without this agreement in place, major problems can ensue — even between trusted spouses, family members or friends. 

Even if you’re married to your partner and you don’t care how the money is split because it goes into the same account anyway, sign an agreement. Eventually, you’ll want to retire and you’ll need to prove past income to earn retirement benefits. 

I can’t stress this point enough: Having a written agreement will help you sleep easy and have clear expectations. 

2. Divide Responsibilities 

As part of the contract or agreement you sign, I also recommend having a conversation about how responsibilities will be divided. You may even include this in your financial agreement. 

As company drivers, no matter how hard one of you works, you’ll earn the same amount. If you have one partner that works harder than the other and drives more miles, that can be frustrating; one partner may feel like they should earn a larger piece of the cut.

Discuss this together. Will one of you drive more and the other will navigate? Will one driver take on the responsibilities of doing the pre- and post-trip inspections and securements and the other will drive more hours? However you decide to do it, make sure you’re both in agreement and clearly understand what the other one wants out of the partnership.

3. Set Up a Business

If you plan to team drive as independent contractors, it’s highly encouraged that the lessee/owner driver sets up some sort of business, such as filing for an LLC. Because they pay the second driver, it’s important that there’s a record of this financial exchange. Using this information, the second driver can file their taxes appropriately. 

A wire transfer of the funds isn’t reputable enough. To a financial institution, this could simply look like a gift. Even if the funds are consistently transferred over at the same time each month, it doesn’t look like legitimate taxable income. 

Without proper tax documentation, the lessee/owner would have to claim 100 percent of the earnings and pay taxes on all of it — even though they were paying the second driver. The second driver wouldn’t have to claim anything. 

This can not only be problematic come tax time, but it can also be a problem if the seat two driver wants to apply for a loan, such as a home loan or a car loan. Without the paperwork that proves consistent income, you’ll likely be denied the loan. Loan processors want to know that you can make your loan payment every month. Without proof of a consistent income, they can’t count on that. 

If you’d rather not file an LLC as the lessee/owner, you can talk to a tax preparer to put together the necessary tax documents you need to provide the second seat driver. 

Holding up stack of rolled cash.

Find the Best Team Pay

After reading this article, you may be swayed one way or the other in regards to whether you’d like to be an independent contractor or a company driver. We have some resources that can help you decide between the benefits of leasing versus buying or being a company driver that you can refer to, but we’re always here to answer any questions you may have about team driving. 

If you’re all in and you’re ready to make the move, ATS is looking for teams to move DOD freight. Whether you already have your security clearance or you have yet to earn it, we can guide you through the process and help you earn more money than you can imagine. 

Our top earners are making up to $10,000 per week — and that’s each driver taking home that much money. 

If you’d like to learn more about running freight for the DOD to determine if you and your partner are up for the challenge, we’ve put together an article for you: What Does it Take to Haul Department of Defense Military Freight?

If you already know this is the pathway you want to go down, you can fill out an application to talk to a driver consultant about our other team positions.