Can Canadian Truckers Make $100K?

Truck drivers keep the flow of goods moving across the country. They play a vital role in keeping the country running as part of the supply chain. They are essential workers as we’ve seen during the Covid pandemic.

A trucking career has its challenges, however, it has job perks as well. Besides having the opportunity to drive all over and meet a variety of people, the salary of a truck driver can be lucrative. 

truck driver getting out of truck

How to Become a Truck Driver in Canada

There are two different types of commercial driver’s licenses — “A” class and “D” class. Class D is the same as Class 3 and allows the driver to operate a vehicle over 11,000 kilograms (24,000 lbs.) gross weight. Or they can drive any combination of motor vehicles exceeding a total gross weight of 11,000 kilograms and a towed vehicle not exceeding 4,600 kilograms (10,000 lbs.). The air brake endorsement is also available. No formal training is required for this license class.

“A” class includes both “A” and “AZ”. They are equal to Classes 2 and 1, respectively. Both allow the driver any combination of truck/tractor and trailer with a gross weight of at least 4600 kg. The only difference is that Class A does not allow the trailer to be equipped with air brakes.

Ontario

In Ontario, the only tractor and trailer license for entire air brake systems is the full Class A truck license.

You need to be at least 18 years old and hold a valid Ontario driver’s license which is not G1, G2, or of the M class. The first step is to have a medical exam and bring the completed form to the local testing center. Assuming there are no problems with the medical portion, a vision test will be required, along with the passing of a written test.

The written test demonstrates knowledge of the road rules specific to commercial vehicles. Upon passing the written test you will be presented with a Beginner A license. In driving school, you take the class for air brakes, which gives you the “Z” endorsement needed to legally operate the vehicle during training.

To take the road test it is mandatory to complete truck driver school.

Quebec

The full trailer truck license in Quebec is called a Class 1 license. The process is like Ontario, with a few exceptions. You need to have four demerit points or less on your license and have not had it revoked or suspended in the past two years.

There are two road tests instead of one. You must hold a Class 5 license for either two or three years, depending on whether you have attended a training program or not.

Quebec has two endorsements that can be added to a Class 1 license. The “F” endorsement allows the driver to operate vehicles with air brakes, and the “M” endorsement allows the use of manual transmissions.

Nova Scotia

This province follows the Ontario model. The only difference is that it is a Class 1, not AZ, license.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is the same as Ontario. The only difference is the air brake endorsement, which is “E” instead of “Z”.

Prince Edward Island

PEI is similar to other provinces with one notable exception – you must be at least 19, instead of 18.

Newfoundland and Labrador

To get your Class 1 in Newfoundland and Labrador, you must have a Class 5 license for a minimum of one year.

Saskatchewan

You can get a Class 1 license here if you are 18 with a full driver’s license. The rest of the process follows Ontario, except that you must pass a pre-inspection test before being allowed to take the road test.

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Manitoba

The entire process is the same as Ontario.

Alberta

Alberta follows Ontario’s model, with the addition of a written air brake test.

British Columbia

The only difference in this province is that you must be 19 to get your Class 1 license.

Yukon

The Yukon follows the Ontario model. However, to get your Class 1 license you must have held a Class 5 for a minimum of one year.

Northwest Territories

This province is like Ontario. The only difference is the air brake endorsement, which is “Q”.

Nunavut

This province is like Ontario. However, a pre-trip inspection must be performed before the road test.

How Do Truck Drivers Earn?

Apart from monthly salaries and punching a time clock for an hourly wage, employers often pay by the kilometers you drive. Long distance truckers usually get paid per kilometer; the more kilometers you drive, the better you earn.

The mileage method of payment is arguably one of the issues that contribute to the driver shortage. Drivers who do take these jobs and self-employed truckers make more than the average for the industry. However, it comes at the cost of uncertainty, paying your business costs, and the hassle of bookkeeping. Pay by the kilometer means that delays, wait times and heavy traffic means lowered earnings.

There is also time away from home and family, which to some is not worth pursuing a trucking career.

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make in Canada?

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According to Glassdoor.ca, the average Canadian truck driver salary is $59,000 CAD per year.

Based on the information from the Job Bank resource on the Government of Canada site, the compensation range for Transport Truck Drivers:

$24,000 to $93,600

There are several factors determining what type of salary you will receive.

Salary Factors

Years of Experience

Experience is a significant factor determining what a salary will be. Those just starting out as drivers cannot expect to make the same as a driver who has been in the industry for years. Simply put, the more experience you have, the more you get paid.

Education and Training

Like almost any other career, the more education and training you have, the better the paycheck will be. Those looking to increase what they take home may choose to take additional courses when they are offered.

Sector

Those who work in the public sector seem to come out farther ahead than those working the private sector. According to 2020 figures, the is roughly a 4% difference in salary.

Specialties

AZ license holders make the best money in general. They can drive all classes of commercial vehicles, so they have more prospects than someone is more limited. Additionally, drivers who haul oversized loads, ice road truckers, tanker drivers (requires a TGL endorsement) and heavy haulers make far more than even AZ drivers.

Gender

Unfortunately, there still seems to be some gender bias in the trucking industry. Women earn roughly 5% less than their male counterparts.

Location

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Does the Pay Vary Across Provinces?

Different provinces do see truck drivers earn different amounts. East coast provinces have the lowest pay scales, with the remaining provinces earning significantly more. The average hourly salary from highest to lowest is listed below.

What Trucking Companies Pay More?

Some companies pay their employees far better than others. Six of the best paying ones are listed below.

  1. With several consecutive years as a Top Fleet Employer under their belt, St. Jacob’s, Ontario’s Home Hardware fleet is a great company to work for. Drivers travel between Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba, and they also offer excellent benefits.
  2. Drivers looking for long-term prospects might consider the low turnover rate at Maritime Ontario. With terminals in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland, this 50-year old company is based in Brampton, Ontario.
  3. Tim Horton’s is recognizable to every Canadian, and their fleet runs throughout the country. Not only do they pay well, they also have current model equipment.
  4. Those looking for a unionized company need look no further than Trimac Transportation. They are based out of Calgary, Alberta, but have over 100 terminals both north and south of the border. They run newer model bulk transport and tanker trucks and have an enticing pay package.
  5. Also out of Alberta is Mullen Trucking Corporation in Ardrie. Their drivers are well-compensated for runs in both Canada and the US, and their focus is the natural gas and oil sector.
  6. New Hamburg, Ontario, is home to the Erb Group. They only have 10 terminals, but they are spread between Pennsylvania, Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba.

Salary Comparison

OTR vs. Local vs. LTL vs. Owner Operator Truck Driver

yellow truck on the highway

Any driver getting to start their career wants to know exactly which truckers get paid better than others. Will the paycheck be bigger if they are gone for weeks at a time, or if they own and operate their own truck? These different specialties have different responsibilities so how do the salaries compare?

Owner Operator

The average owner-operator in Canada can anticipate an average base yearly salary of $130,180. These dual role filling truckers have other responsibilities over and above drivers, including both accounting and business-related tasks.

Local Truckers

Local truck drivers may make it home every evening, but they have the greatest variation in salaries. What they earn is greatly influenced by where they live, and what they are hauling. The average yearly salary is $111,000, but this also in the best markets.

LTL

LTL, or less than truckload, drivers make an average of $64,000 per year. Generally, they carry loads that are not full or unusual loads, and they deliver them to customer locations. They can work nationally, regionally, or locally, and their average yearly earning may fluctuate depending on their location choice.

OTR

OTR, or over-the-road, truck drivers can be out on hauls for weeks at a time. They not only have the responsibility for driving their truck they also must ensure their cargo gets proper care during the trip. The long hours result in an average yearly salary of $73,000.

Truck Driver Demand / Career Prospects

No Frills truck

Driving trucks commercially is a rewarding occupation with great responsibilities. When you are in charge of a vehicle that weighs tens of thousands of kilograms you need to be alert and physically fit at all times. You will go out on the open road but also navigate narrow streets safely, racing the clock, in search of final destinations.

Depending on the truck-driving career you choose you might work a daily delivery route or haul point-to-point between regional depots. If you enjoy the road and you can be away from home for days at a time you can haul freight across the continent as a long haul driver.

Truck drivers are always in demand. Freight must get to its destination and sending it by truck is effective and cost-effective. There is always a job to be found in this field, especially in provinces like Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. This is not expected to change for the foreseeable future so career prospects look solid.

In fact, according to Trucking HR Canada, trucking and logistics has one of the highest job vacancy rates at 6.8% (2019). In their report there are over 20,000 unfilled trucking positions in Canada. This number increased over 138% from 2016. Factors that contribute to the shortage are: high turnover, aging workforce and lack of female drivers.

Comments

  1. I am serching for a job as a truck driver , i live in spain and i alredy have about 14 years driving experience on trailers on the european roads i wish if someone could put me through or offer me an oportunity of a trucking job in canada

    • I’m original from Holland and started 10 years ago at Trans-X in Winnipeg, Manitoba, they provide you a work permit etc. its a pretty good company to work for, you need to be able to cross border between Canada-USA, so you need to have a clean criminal record, you also can try H&R in Lethbridge, Alberta (head office now in Calgery, AB)

      This 2 company’s recruit drivers from Europe, there is also Bison but won’t recommend them to work for.

      Good luck, it’s worth moving to Canada but the first 3 year can be hard, but when you final have you’re Permanent Resident card you can live and work where ever you want here 😉

      • Hey, do you know of any company of no long distance transportation that could recruit me, I’m from Spain, and provide me a work permit, etc…
        I have 1-2 years of experience on driving trucks, but not of long distance.

  2. The mileage method of payment is really a setback for most drivers. This becomes worse when you know that your route is usually slow and always having traffic delays. It’s just unfair that delays, wait times, and heavy traffic that would increase the time you’ll spend getting to your destination would not add to your earnings.

  3. I agree, thousands of trucker jobs go unfilled each year in Canada and it’s not helpful that they have a turnover of people who come into the industry and give it a try. Maybe when they review the salary, a lot of people would troop into the field to fill the role again.

  4. Newton Smith says

    Yeah, income relates to experience and so people feel the longer you stay the higher your expected earnings will be. But there some passionate drivers who are very good at the job and still earn little. Maybe that is why a lot of people prefer long-distance routes because it earns them the highest incomes.

  5. My granddad was a local truck driver and he was paid very high. He taught my dad would take over but he didn’t. Now I am beginning to like the career and I’m already thinking of going into it. Not really because of the salary though. I just love the road adventures.

  6. Joseph Kalando says

    Hi there my name is Joseph, i am a young male age 24 years working as a long haul truck driver in zambia, i have 3years experience of double trailer and wish to work as a truck driver in canada need help

  7. Lemma sintayehu says

    I Iame Lemma sintayehu I am ave truck driver. from Ethiopia awthe free entrusting this job to driving work Canada

  8. Temitope Monsuru adetunji says

    Am temitope Monsuru adetunji
    From Nigeria
    Am a good experience truck driver
    With experience of 18yrs
    But I will like to continue my skills of driving in Canada/USA
    If I can invited from any good company there
    And I can assure. You my best services at all times

  9. Me and my husband are thinking into being a couple driving truck.
    We wanted to do driving within Canada, are there companies who would allow this?
    What is your thought on this?

  10. Muhammad siddiq says

    Hi….
    I am muhammad siddiq.i am pakistani.
    Right know i am living in UAE.i have international driving licence form UAE.
    I want to work with u as a heavy truck driver.
    Who to apply in this companie.i have a experience as a heavy truck driver 8 years

  11. George Gondwe says

    Hi there
    I am an international truck driver from Zambia. Am currently working for Southgate trucking, doing Zambia and South Africa route.
    How can I get a job in Canada? I really need to work in Canada as a truck driver.
    Please help…

  12. I am a Nigerian living in UAE love driving as a career, I have more than 10years experience in truck driver I will be happy if I can get opportunity in Canada

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