No matter how much you love your job, you still need to make a living. That’s just a reality of the world today.
Now, there are two components to making a living wage. The first is doing good work, of course, but the other is knowing what you’re worth – and what the going rate is.
We can’t tell you how much you should charge for your services. What we can do is give you a place to start from. To that end, we’ve compiled the most recent salary information in three areas of the industry: shop owner, diesel tech, and truck driver.
Want to know what kind of income you could be looking at? Read along and find out!
Shop Owner Salary
Average annual salaries for general auto repair shop owners are estimated in the low to mid-$60,000 range. However, experts point out that specializing in certain types of vehicles increases what you can charge for your services, which in turn increases the salary of a heavy-duty shop owner. Not just anyone can service or repair big vehicles, so you can expect a salary somewhat closer to six figures, especially as your shop develops a good reputation.
Plus, landing work doing the PMs and repairs for entire fleets will increase your shop’s income along with yours, too. (Psst: Use our ROI Tool to calculate what you could earn running a diesel repair shop.)
Pretty good, if we do say so ourselves. Although fewer people are pursuing truck driving as a career, self-driving trucks may be poised to fill the driver shortage. All those trucks will need a shop like yours to perform preventive maintenance and handle repairs when they come up.
Hey, you’re the boss. What kind of education do you have? That’s all you need.
In all seriousness, most shop owners usually started out as techs. You know heavy-duty machinery like the back of your hand, but have you ever managed someone? How about a bunch of someones?
Hint: It’s not easy.
We recommend taking a management class or two, even if they’re online. If you can’t swing that, at least talk to someone experienced in managing a business. Any knowledge you can gain going in will help ensure you can keep the doors open and pay yourself a regular salary.
Things to Consider
As a shop owner, you aren’t just fixing stuff. Your daily duties include arranging the meetup between the technician and the customer, managing the customer relationship, and managing your techs. It’s also your job to run the business. That involves staying on top of inventory, knowing what repairs your techs are doing, and how those jobs are going. What’s more, many shop owners do their own invoicing and parts ordering.
And that’s all on a day when things are running smoothly. Vendors can raise prices, parts mysteriously disappear, companies that provide services to you could raise their rates, your best techs might quit for other job offers or to start their own shops…
Should we go on?
Issues like these typically come out of the blue, hitting when everything seems to be going great, and they’ll all affect your profits – which affects your salary.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual heavy-duty diesel mechanic salary is $47,350. According to Payscale, some heavy-duty techs make as much as $72,000 to $93,000 per year, with an average hourly pay of almost $23.
When comparing salary to an hourly wage, salary might sound like the better deal. Honestly, it depends on how busy the shop is. Salaried mechanics are exempt from overtime pay in some circumstances. That means salaried techs in an extremely busy shop can end up working for much less than those who take an hourly wage and work typical hours. On the other hand, some shops might calculate your paycheck based on how many hours you actually spend working on trucks in any given pay period.
Then again, more and more shops are implementing incentivized pay structures. They pay techs an hourly wage plus bonuses for high-efficiency. If you can multitask, dropping oil on one truck while replacing the brakes on another one, for example, hourly-plus-bonuses can be lucrative.
Also good! As we noted above, trucks always need maintenance. Diesel techs are expected to grow by 5 percent through 2028. That’s because not only is the shipping industry expected to grow, but diesel vehicles, including light trucks and passenger cars, are increasing in popularity. More diesel equipment on the road means a growing demand for mechanics.
We talk a lot about the diesel tech shortage. While an unfortunate reality of the industry, it’s something that can work in your favor. The shortage means there is extremely high demand for skilled techs – obviously we make no guarantees, but you might end up commanding a higher salary if the shortage continues.
You don’t necessarily need a formal education to become a diesel tech. The minimum shop managers look for is a high school degree or the equivalent. But training an inexperienced tech takes time, and time is money. That’s why more and more shops look for techs who are already experienced, whether they went to school or learned their trade apprenticing at another shop. Managers and owners are willing to pay higher rates for experienced techs because #1, they know what they’re doing and #2, the shop won’t have to spend time (and money) training them.
Whatever experience you already have, it’s never a bad idea to get more. Continuing education for diesel techs is where you’ll find the specialty certification programs we mentioned above. Any areas you specialize in beyond the basics like engines and fuel, electrical, and brake systems put you in higher demand and increase your earning potential.
Employers often pay higher salaries to techs with ASE certificates, or who at least have gone through diesel tech programs offered in colleges and trade schools. The average annual salary for an ASE Master Diesel Tech is $51,984.
Things to Consider
Where you end up working can affect how much you make as a diesel tech. The five states that pay diesel mechanics best are:
- North Dakota
Hawaii, Vermont, and Rhode Island rank as the states with the lowest salaries for diesel techs. Heavy-duty mechanics in the Aloha State, for instance, earn just over $33,000 per year.
Truck Driver Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for truckers is $43,680. Some industry numbers say that average is around $53,000, so what you end up making will probably depend on who you work for, your route, and other factors.
How are drivers paid? Let us count the ways. Some drivers are paid hourly and some owner-operators charge a percentage of the revenue from the load. Some fleets even offer per diem pay to cover expenses drivers incur on the road, like meals.
Additionally, many fleets provide signing, safety, efficiency, and fuel bonuses, along with benefits packages and scheduling/route flexibility.
If you’re a good driver, you’ve got yourself a job, because we’re running out of truckers.
Self-driving trucks are not a reality yet, meaning we still need lots of drivers now. In 2016, there were 36,000 more driving jobs than there were drivers. In 2018, the shortage was reported to be about 63,000. What’s more, an ATA report projects that the problem will worsen. If the freight business continues to grow and newer drivers fail to join the ranks, the shortage could reach 175,000 by the year 2024.
Trucking is currently one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t require a degree. The company that hires you might want you to have your GED, or they might be satisfied with your driving skills alone.
No matter what, you will need to obtain your commercial driver’s license, the guidelines for which will depend on your state. Generally speaking, you’ll need to study for and pass a written test to earn your learner’s permit, followed by the on-the-road exam. You must have a regular driver’s license before applying for a commercial permit; if you want to haul freight across state lines, you need to be at least 21.
Things to Consider
One of the most daunting parts of being a truck driver – and the part no class can really prepare you for – are the long hours spent on the road away from others. If you’ve got a family that you can’t bear to be apart from, taking to the highways might not be the best option for you.
CDL.com covers some of the additional ups and downs that come with being a truck driver. Prepare yourself for early mornings and long days on the road. Have you thought about what you’ll eat while driving? A diet of pure fast food is a ticket to all kinds of health problems, but sometimes there isn’t much else along lonely strips of highway. Doing some meal planning and keeping a cooler full of at least semi-healthy snacks can be helpful.
Keep on Truckin’
So there you have it: General salary information for owners, techs, and truckers. Obviously there’s a lot of variety in the industry, and we aren’t offering up any guarantees – but there is money to be made if you’re willing to work for it.
Good luck – we hope we’ll see you in the shop or on the road!