Looking at Driver’s Mileage and Method of Payment

Jim McCormack

Anyone who has been in the trucking business for any length of time knows how he or she is going to be paid.  However, those new in the business may not realize how important it is to understand the method of payment prior to signing a contract.  Once a signature is on the dotted line, the driver is committed and sometimes suffers a loss.



Truck drivers who work locally do not have the mileage problems that are incurred by long distance drivers.  They are ordinarily paid by the hour or per load.  A person who is not delivering a full load may be paid by the hour, by the mile, or by per piece (unloaded, delivered, or tailgated).  Unlike a long distance driver, they are able to spend quality time with their families.

There are often disagreements between a long distance driver and their carrier regarding the actual mileage driven.  This difference can result in a driver not being paid what he or she has actually earned.  Some drivers have reported a loss of as much as 5 to 12%.  This means that when contracting a haul it is important to learn what method is being used to make this determination.


Long haul drivers may be paid by the household good miles, practical miles, hub miles, or a percentage of the load.  Of all of these, the most accurate is the hub miles.  This is measured by an attachment to the wheel of the rig that automatically records mileage.  However, this hub can be pre-set to ‘estimated miles’ by the carrier.  In the latter case if a trucker must go more than the set number of miles, for any reason, it is out-of-pocket.

Household goods miles are figured from a Mileage Guide, which shows distances between cities, or point-to-point mileages.  Supposedly, this assures that drivers will be paid only for miles driven.  Unfortunately, this has often been proven incorrect.   More accurate mileage is figured when a “PC*MILER” program, which is designed especially for truck mileage is used.  This is considered a ‘distance standard’ by the Federal Government when figuring worldwide mileage for transporting goods.

Practical miles are where a company lays out a driving route and pays just for those miles, regardless of what the odometer says.  This can be costly if there are detours along the way, which cause extra mileage.  Many of these companies have a tollgate device, which automatically pays any tolls.  These charges are deducted from the check the trucker receives for the haul.

Percentage of the load means just that.  The driver receives a percent of the amount paid for the load and must handle all road expenses on their own.

The best way to avoid getting into the wrong kind of a contract with a company or carrier is to talk to drivers who have been in the business for several years.  They will be able to provide information regarding the best payment methods and the best employers in the business.  This means the difference between have a profitable operation or one that loses both time and money.