This is How Much Cargo Van Drivers Make Per Mile

Depending on your employment status (self-employed or company-employed), this is the amount you’re likely to earn:

  • Company cargo van drivers: 38 to 52 cents per mile on average
  • Cargo van owner operators: $1 to $2 per mile on average

The exact rate will depend on any expenses and the time you spend on the road.

You make more money by going direct with the client and avoiding broker or load board-related fees.

But your earning potential is somewhat capped as you can only work so many hours per week.

It’s worth noting that independent drivers (owner-operators) have a much higher earning potential than company drivers due to being their own boss.

However, being paid on the higher end of the per-mile rate will probably involve drawbacks such as significant deadhead.

You might also have to be available during odd hours, which means that you’ll have to put more effort to adequately plan your routes.

To highlight all these details and more regarding your per-mile earnings as a cargo van driver, in this article I’ll cover:

  • What companies typically pay for a cargo van driver with specific examples
  • Practical tips to maximize profit as a cargo van driver
  • How to calculate your rate per mile (how do I calculate my pay per mile?)
  • Owner operator vs company driver including differences and the pros and cons of each
  • How to find work as a cargo van driver


Common Cargo Van Driver Rates with Examples

Below I’ve hand-picked several examples of what transportation and delivery companies typically offer when hiring cargo van drivers:


1. Full-Time Cargo Van Associate/Driver

  • State – New Jersey
  • Salary – $800 to $1,000 per week
  • Payment method – Weekly direct deposit
  • Driver’s license – Class D (CDL isn’t needed)
  • Work location – On the road
  • Minimum age – 23 years of age
  • Requirements – 100% clean driving record and zero car accidents during the past 3 years
  • Workload – 4 to 5 days per week (including 1 weekend day) with a maximum of 10 hours of work per day


2. Part-Time Cargo Van Pet Driver

  • State – California
  • Salary – $23 per hour
  • Payment method – N/A
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – On the road
  • Minimum age – 21 years of age
  • Requirements – Ability to lift and carry 50 pounds, pass drug screening, clean driving record
  • Workload – Flexible schedule with varying daily hours and days of the week depending on the transportation schedule. Includes holidays, weekends, split-shift and night work.


3. Full-Time/Part-Time/Contract Delivery Driver

  • State – Virginia
  • Salary – Up to $1,000 per week ($45 on an average per run)
  • Payment method – N/A
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – Multiple locations
  • Minimum age – 18 years of age
  • Requirements – Able to lift at least 100 pounds, year-round and weekend availability
  • Workload – Monday to Friday with a flexible schedule


4. Full-Time/Part-Time Sprinter Van Delivery Driver

  • State – Washington
  • Salary – From $20 per hour
  • Payment method –
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – One location
  • Minimum age – 21 years of age
  • Requirements – Have a valid driving license for at least 4 years old, pass a 4-panel drug screen, clean MVR, authorized to work on US soil, good written and spoken English
  • Workload – 8 to 12-hour shifts, weekend availability, might include overtime


5. Independent Contractor Cargo Van Driver

  • State – Georgia
  • Salary – $27,000 to $34,000 per year
  • Payment method – N/A
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – N/A
  • Minimum age – 21 years of age
  • Requirements – A cell phone, insurance limits of 100k/300k/50k
  • Workload – Day, night and weekend shifts are available


6. Full-Time Cargo Van Delivery Drivers

  • State – New York
  • Salary – $150 to $190 per shift
  • Payment method –
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – Local deliveries
  • Minimum age – 21 years of age
  • Requirements – Safe driving record, pass drug screening, have a clean driving record
  • Workload – 3-5 day work week with 8-10 hour shifts


7. Delivery Associate Cargo Van Driver

  • State – Florida
  • Salary – $16.50 per hour ($25,000 to $33,000 per year)
  • Payment method – N/A
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – Local deliveries
  • Minimum age – 21 years of age
  • Requirements – Be able to lift items of up to 70 pounds, pass a drug screen, must have good communication skills
  • Workload – Typically 2-4 work days with 7-9 hour shifts


8. Full-Time Biopharmaceutical Cargo Van Driver

  • State – New York
  • Salary – N/A
  • Payment method – N/A
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – Local pickup and deliveries
  • Minimum age – N/A
  • Requirements – Be physically fit, have a maximum of 2 moving violates and/or accidents during the past year, have a maximum of 3 moving violations and/or accidents during the past 3 years, no major convictions for the past 5 years
  • Workload – Must be available for some overtime


9. Part-Time Cargo Van Driver

  • State – Michigan
  • Salary – up to $19.00/hour with a $250 new hire bonus
  • Payment method – Weekly pay
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – Regional
  • Minimum age – N/A
  • Requirements – Must be able to lift, pull and carry heavy objects, demonstrate knowledge of the route traveled
  • Workload – N/A


10. Owner Operator Sprinter or Cargo Van Driver

  • State – Ohio
  • Salary – $140,000 to $180,000 per year
  • Payment method – Direct debit card deposit after each delivery
  • Driver’s license – Class D
  • Work location – N/A
  • Minimum age – N/A
  • Requirements – Clean driving record, at least 2 years experience, the van has to be reasonably new and in good condition
  • Workload – N/A


Tips to Maximize Profit as a Cargo Van Driver

Here are a few truly practical tips to optimize your potential profit as a cargo van driver by tweaking certain expenses and utilizing clever money-maximizing tactics:


1. Buy Fuel at the Lowest Base Rate

Try to find fuel stations on your route with the lowest pump price and write them down so that they become your go-to source for fuel refills.

Also, consider utilizing reward programs as another means to save some hard-earned cash on fuel.

However, always try to have enough budget in case you have to drive overtime and/or change your route unexpectedly.


2. Track Everything Using an Accounting Software

Managing all your expenses and revenue can be a real headache, especially as your workload increases.

That’s why you’ll need accounting software, preferably something basic for self-employment purposes, without any associated costs.

TruckBytes is a good example of software with a basic no-cost package, while QuickBooks Self-Employed is a decent alternative.

And you can simply give your accountant access to the software at the end of every year to speed up the tax prep process and reduce your accounting fees.


3. Develop Relationships with Direct Shippers

First, you need to use industry associations that have local chapters in your area to find clients.

Think of what associations your ideal client belongs to, as they can help you grow professionally as a cargo van driver.

Let’s say that retail stores are your ideal clients. Then you want to get in touch with local retailer associations and possibly join them.

But you can also look for underserved local industries and offer your services there.

This is the only feasible way to make any decent money as a cargo van driver, as by doing this you’ll avoid any broker or load board-related fees.


4. Consider Becoming an Employee in your Own Company

As your owner-operator business grows, you might consider talking to your accountant if setting yourself up as an employee in the company that you own is a good idea.

Note that you’ll probably have to be already making decent money as a cargo van driver before opting for this important benefit of owning a small business.

Some of the perks associated with this move include tax deductions, issue bonuses, and even a boost in your 401k plan contributions.


5. Don’t Jump to Load Boards Right Away

Load boards are online matching systems that hook freight brokers and shippers with carriers to always keep the truck or cargo van full and moving.

Although this can be great if you’re sitting idle without transporting anything, load boards will still take away a certain amount of your profit.

Do your best to establish personal connections with direct shippers first and only use load boards and brokers as a last resort, because it’s still better to drive at a reduced rate than to sit idle.

There are various load board plans out here with specific features such as basic searching, posting, broker credit, days-to-pay info, load comparison, and even real-time updates.


How to Calculate Your Cargo Van Cost Per Mile

This is how to figure out what your cargo van rate per mile is in 4 easy steps to estimate your expected profit.

It’s important because it will determine how much you really make per mile after these costs:


1. Figure Out How Many Miles You’ll Be Driving

Firstly, make sure to calculate the overall number of miles that you’ll cover on a monthly basis.

The total number you come up with has to include both compensated and non-compensated (i.e. deadhead) miles.

Note that most owner-operator drivers drive roughly 100k miles per year so let’s assume that you’ll be driving an average number of 8,400 miles each month.


2. Calculate the Overall Amount of Fixed Expenses

Your fixed expenses are called this way because they will remain the same each month, no matter how much you’ll be driving.

To give you an example, here’s a sample list of common fixed expenses that the typical owner-operator will have to take into account on a monthly basis:

  • Cargo van payments – $1,400
  • Colission insurance – $480
  • Health insurance – $400
  • License plates – $125
  • Deadhead insurance – $60
  • Permits – $50
  • Estimated total – $2,515

Although it’s quite simple and easy to calculate your overall fixed expenses, you have to consider that they fall into two distinct categories – monthly and yearly (single) payments.

Thus, a fixed expense such as license plates would typically be a single payment done once a year, while collision insurance payments can be done in multiple, monthly payments.

If your total yearly cost is roughly $2,500, divide this by 12 months, and you’ll have around $208 fixed expenses each month.


3. Calculate All The Possible Variable Expenses

Unlike fixed expenses, variable expenses are the costs directly related to how many miles you drive.

As a result, the number of variable expenses you have will go up and down each month, depending on how much you drive your cargo van.

The biggest variable expense that you’ll most likely have is fuel.

Driving more than usual will require more fuel, which in return will bump your overall variable expenses for the given month.

Here’s an example of the most common variable expenses and some sample costs that you need to consider each month:

  • Fuel – $2,000
  • Broker-related fees – $1,125
  • Repairs – $600
  • Food/lodging – $600
  • Maintenance – $450
  • Miscallenous – $450
  • Tires – $300
  • Phone bills – $160
  • Toll taxes – $160
  • Estimated total – $5,845

Clearly, your biggest variable monthly costs are going to be fuel and broker fees.

Apart from driving more economically to lower fuel costs, you can try to substitute brokers with your own clients to bring the variable costs down and increase your profits.


4. Use All Previous Data to Find Your Cost Per Mile

Now that you have a rough estimation of how many miles you’ll be driving per month, as well as what your fixed and variable expenses will be, it’s time to add everything up and calculate your cost per mile.

To find your cost per mile, you have to divide both the fixed and variable costs by the number of miles you generated in a month.

Let’s use the 8,400-mile per month example mentioned earlier and divide the fixed monthly expenses by it i.e. $2,515÷$8,400=$0.30.

And do the same with the variable monthly expenses i.e. $5,845÷$8,400=$0.70.

Here’s a summary of what these calculations look like and the overall cost per mile is:

  • Miles per month – 8,400
  • Fixed monthly expenses per mile – $0.30
  • Variable monthly expenses per mile – $0.70
  • Total cost per mile – $1.00

Judging by these calculations, a $1.00 return per mile for 8,400 total miles per month will mean that you can cover all your expenses.

Thus, anything you earn beyond this $1.00 baseline will count toward your profit.


Owner Operator vs Company Cargo Van Driver

Working as an owner-operator or a company driver have a few important differences that you need to know about:


1. Owner Operators Don’t Have a Boss

Owner operators are considered small business owners, meaning that they’re independent drivers who don’t have a boss above them.

Instead, these drivers partner with freight companies, and they use their own vehicle.

An owner-operator can either own or lease the vehicle, and if it’s the latter they’re referred to as lease-purchase owner-operators.


2. Company Drivers are Labeled as Employees

A company driver is an employee of a freight company who drives the company’s vehicles and can be paid either by the hour or the mile.

Thus, company drivers don’t own, nor lease the vehicles that they’re driving.


3. Owner Operators Pay Taxes Manually

As opposed to company drivers, owner operators don’t have an employer, meaning that their taxes aren’t automatically deducted from their earnings.

This means that you have to make the effort to save some of your revenue to avoid owing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).


4. Company Drivers Receive Various Benefits

Since company drivers are labeled as employees, they get different valuable benefits.

They can include various goodies such as workers’ compensation, health insurance contributions and a 401k retirement plan if your employer provides them.


5. Owner operators can earn much more

Company drivers have a much lower earning potential ceiling than owner-operators, even if they have endorsements and experience.

For example, a company driver would usually earn 38 to 52 cents per mile or around $15 to $25 per hour on average.

Keep in mind that reaching the upper earning potential limit for a company driver largely depends on their experience, where they are driving and if have Tanker and Hazmat endorsements.

But the earning potential of these drivers is somewhat capped as they can only drive so many hours per week.

However, an owner-operator is a completely different animal with the potential for much higher income than their company-employed counterparts.

The common share that an owner-operator gets is around 70% of the load. Thus, if the freight pays $2.50, you’ll receive $1.75.

And you have all the freedom to choose how many loads you accept or turn down, depending on how much money you’d like to earn.

It’s not uncommon for owner-operators to earn well above $100k per year with the potential to even reach $150k and beyond.


Owner Operator or Company Driver – Pros and Cons

Yes, owner-operator cargo van drivers can earn more per mile, but please note that the option is not necessarily superior..

Each option just caters to the needs and personalities of different drivers, so consider these pros and cons before you make your mind:


Owner Operator Pros:

  • You don’t have an employer as you have the privilege of being a small business owner.
  • The earning potential ceiling is several times higher compared to working as a company driver.
  • You get to choose how many hours to work and how many loads to accept.
  • Other drivers can work under you (this would make you a freight agent).
  • There’s the option to become a lease-purchase owner-operator if you’re not ready,  this helps you face unexpected costs.
  • You can benefit from tax-deductible expenses.


Owner Operator Cons:

  • Being a business owner carries a higher amount of risk and unpredictability.
  • You have to cover all maintenance and repair costs of the vehicle yourself.
  • Any unforeseen business expenses and various insurances can easily add up to your overall expenses.
  • Taxes aren’t automatically taken out of your earnings, you have to organize and work it out yourself.


Company Driver Pros:

  • Ideal if you prefer work predictability with fewer risks.
  • A good choice if you’re new to working as a cargo van driver.
  • You don’t have to pay for the maintenance or any repairs for your vehicle.
  • No need to worry about the varying fuel prices.
  • Various employee benefits such as health insurance are included.
  • Generally, you know what your income will be, and there are no unforeseen expenses.


Company Driver Cons:

  • The maximum earning potential is much lower in comparison to owner-operators.
  • You don’t have as much freedom as you’ll be someone’s employee.
  • There’s hardly any room for growth unless you transition into an owner-operator.


How to Find Work as a Cargo Van Driver

Finding work in this sector is all about knowing your options, and these are the 3 most common ways to start working as a cargo van driver:


1. Become a Local Delivery Cargo Van Courier

Every city needs local couriers, even highly-populated concrete jungles like New York.

Although bike courier deliveries are picking up speed in the big cities for obvious reasons, shippers still use cargo van couriers due to the size and quantity of certain shipments.

But even if urban areas aren’t your thing, plenty of suburban regions are very suitable for cargo van deliveries.

Have a look around job posting sites for courier-based logistics companies that are hiring cargo van drivers.

Apart from doing deliveries for wholesalers and suppliers, you can also find notaries and lawyers who require quick delivery of important documents.

Don’t narrow down your options, and remember to properly calculate your rate and potential expenses to ensure that you are in profit.


2. Go for a Cargo Van Expediting Company

If you decide to become a cargo van driver for an expediting company, expect to do a lot of transporting of small loads in a swift fashion.

Expeditors typically offer same-day or overnight delivery to their shippers, including an industry-common 24-hour drop-off and pick-up service.

These loads can either be regional or local deliveries, and they’re usually listed as emergency freight due to their urgent delivery nature.

Note that depending on the expeditor company, you will be paid either on a per-mile basis or a percentage of load revenue.

And don’t just fall for an attractive payment package as you may be required to be available for night shifts, while the loads might have a significant deadhead.

Another thing to take into account is how much you can carry, since you’ll most likely have to lift and carry heavy items (sometimes up to 50 lbs and even beyond).


3. Start Partnering with Clients Directly

The riskiest, yet most rewarding aspect of being a cargo van driver is to become your own boss and partner with direct shippers on your own.

You’ll have to start marketing yourself to small manufacturers as the go-to cargo van driver for on-demand deliveries in your region.

Keep in mind that you might have to get creative by attending trade shows to look for small up-and-coming businesses that will probably have to outsource their deliveries and cargo needs.

Alternatively, you can decide to list yourself on advertisement sites like Craigslist as an independent cargo van driver who for example, transports junk or furniture.



In general, working as a cargo van driver can be a rather lucrative job, considering that you don’t need any fancy degrees for it.

However, your specific rate per mile will largely depend on what type of cargo van driver you opt for.

You can either become a company driver who typically ears 38-52 cents per mile on average or an owner-operator (independent driver) who usually ears $1-$2 per mile on average.

A company driver is a regular employee in a company, while an owner operator doesn’t have an employer as these cargo van drivers are typically self-employed.

Both cargo van driving jobs have their advantages and disadvantages, so choosing one over the other largely depends on your specific needs and personality.

In a nutshell, if you prefer to be your own boss and feel like taking a higher risk then become a cargo van owner-operator.

But if you’re not that willing to take risks and prefer more predictability, starting a job as a company cargo van driver would make more sense.