How Much Do Van Drivers Earn

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average light vehicle driver such as a van or a truck with a capacity that does not exceed 26,0001lbs Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), earns $19.74 per hour or $41,050 per year. The hourly median wage is $17.81, and the annual median wage is $37.050

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the courier and express services industry has the highest level of employment and employs 213,170 with yearly average wages of $ 56,520.  

The Local Messengers and Local Delivery industry have the highest concentration of employment of vans and light truck drivers, which accounts for 55.37% of its employment. 

Additionally, Motion Pictures and Video industries have the highest wages for the van and light truck drivers in the country, earning an average of $32.38 per hour or $67,350 per year.  


Industries Registering Highest Level of Employment 

Industry Employed Proportion of Industry Employment Average Hourly Rates Average Yearly Earnings  
Couriers and Express Delivery Services 213,170 27.72% $ 27.17 $ 56,520 
Local Messengers and Local Delivery 72,690 55.37% $ 20.11 $ 41,840 
Automotive Parts, Accessories, and Tire Stores 67,670 12.52% $ 12.72 $ 26,460 
Truck Transportation 54,950 3.74% $ 21.24 $ 44,180 
Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods  42,540 4.49% $ 18.90 $ 39,320 


Industries Registering Highest Concentration of Employment 

Industry Employed Proportion of Industry Employment Average Hourly Rates Average Yearly Earnings  
Local Messengers and Local Delivery 72,690 55.37% $ 20.11 $ 41,840 
Couriers and Express Delivery Services 213,170 27.72% $ 27.17 $ 56,520 
Florists 7,630 14.48% $ 13.56 $ 28,200 
Automotive Parts, Accessories, and Tire Stores 67,670 12.52% $ 12.72 $ 26,460 
Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Parts and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers 30,940 9.13% $ 15.51 $ 32,260 


Highest Paying Industries  

Industry Employed Proportion of Industry Employment Average Hourly Rates Average Yearly Earnings  
Motion Picture and Video Industries 730 0.22% $ 32.38 $ 67,350 
Natural Gas Distribution 460 0.43% $ 32.10 $ 66,760 
Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution 50 0.01% $ 29.09 $ 60,500 
Postal Service (federal government) 2,370 0.38% $ 27.48 $ 57,160 
Couriers and Express Delivery Services 213,170 27.72% $ 27.17 $ 56,520 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics combines light trucks and vans when computing drivers’ average earnings. However, figures for van drivers only have a slight variation. 

Looking at figures from job advertisements and information from van drivers, the average salary for a van driver in the US is about $14.11 per hour or $29,352 per annum. At the entry-level, van drivers earn $20,000 annually, and the most experienced van drivers earn about $42,000 per year.  

Some regions in the country have the highest van driver earnings and they include North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and North Dakota.    

Over the years, the average earnings of a van driver have been increasing gradually. For instance, in 2018, the average earnings were $26,000 per year, while in 2018 they had increased to $26,600.  

In 2019 the salaries stood at about $27,100 per annum, in 2020, they had risen to about $27,800, and in 2021 they were $28,599.  

At the start of 2022, the average salaries for van drivers were $29,400. 


States with Highest Salaries for Van Drivers 

State Hourly Rate Average Yearly Wage 
North Dakota  $20.07 $41,740 
New York $19.79 $41,168 
New Jersey $19.65 $40,880 
North Carolina $18.89 $39,297 
Rhode Island $17.99 $37,429 
Maryland $17.99 $37421 
DC $17.97 $37,372 
Connecticut $17.89 $37,218 
Massachusetts $17.73 $36,868 
Nebraska $17.70 $36,820 
Alaska $17.57 $36,553 
Nevada $17.53 $36,455 
Delaware $17.48 $36,352 
Oklahoma $17.45 $36,299 

The salaries of van drivers vary significantly depending on a wide range of factors. Some of the main factors are location and industry.  

Industries such as energy, transportation, and retail often pay the highest.  

Van drivers in the transport industry earn an average of $35,623 per year, while van drivers in energy make an average of $35,203 yearly. In the retail industry, van drivers earn an average of $32,522 per year. While the hospitality industry pays the van drivers an average of $24,822. 

Rank  Industry Van Driver Salary Range  Average Van Driver Salary 
Transport $22,000 – $42,000 $35,623 
Energy $22,000 – $42,000 $35,103 
Retail $22,000 – $42,000 $32,522 
Health Care $22,000 – $42,000 $28,929 
Hospitality $22,000 – $42,000 $24,822 


Earnings of Owner Operator Cargo Van Driver  

The average earnings of an owner-operator cargo van driver in the US is about $65,446 per year. These earnings translate to about $31.46 per hour, $1,259 per week, or $5,454 per month.  

According to ZipRecruiter, the annual salaries for owner-operator van drivers across the US range from as high as $243,000 to as low as $17,500. To estimate the most accurate salaries for owner-operator cargo van driver jobs, ZipRecruiter scans its database for millions of current active jobs advertised locally across the USA. 

The earnings distribution is given below 

  • The 25th percentile earn about $29,000 yearly 
  • The 75th percentile earn about $57,000 yearly 
  • The average earnings typically vary significantly by as much as $28,000. This variation indicates that the earnings depend on skill level, years of experience, industry, and location. An owner operator cargo driver in the Township of North Bergen, New Jersey, and its surrounding environs earns the highest in the US. 


Cities with Highest Earning Drivers 

The following are cities with high earnings for owner-operator cargo van drivers that exceed the national average. 

  • San Mateo, CA, with 20.8% above $65,446, the average national earnings  
  • Berkeley, CA,with 25.3% above $65,446, the average national earnings 
  • Daly City, CA, with 20.8% above $65,446, the average national earnings 
City Hourly Pay Weekly Pay Monthly Pay Yearly Earnings 
Santa Mateo, CA $39.42 $1,577 $6,833 $81,994 
Berkeley, CA $38.13 $1,525 $6,609 $79,308 
Daly City, CA $38.02 $1,521 $6,591 $79,087 
Richmond, CA $36.93 $1,477 $6,402 $76,821 
Stamford, CT $35.96 $1,439 $6,234 $74,804 
Bellevue, WA $35.87 $1,435 $6,217 $74,609 
Brooklyn, NY $35.35 $1,414 $6,128 $73,538 
San Francisco, CA $35.30 $1,412 $6,119 $73,433 
Knik-Fairview, AK $35.25 $1,410 $6,110 $73,319 
New Haven, CT $35.04 $1,402 $6,074 $72,888 


How to Become a Cargo Van Operator Driver 

To qualify as a cargo van operator, you have to meet some requirements that include the following: 

  • Above 22 years of age 
  • Have passed Federal DOT physical and drug tests 

Other requirements include the following: 

  • Ability to read maps and operate a GPS 
  • General mechanic knowledge is desirable 
  • Basic computer skills 
  • Strong time management skills 

Generally, there are no educational qualifications needed for this position. 


Duties of a Cargo Van Owner Operator  

Typically, a cargo van owner operator carries out delivery services for small cargo. You’ll work as an independent contractor, and this means you have your own van that makes you the owner-operator of the transport van.  

Your duties are mainly to move goods, by loading, securing, and unloading the cargo. You transport and deliver cargo to its destination while you maintain your van.  

The type of luggage will vary, and you’ll haul just about anything as long as it fits into your van.     

You can focus on long-distance or local deliveries because cargo van owner operator offers flexibility   


Cargo Van Driver Earnings Per Mile 

The amount of money you’ll make per mile will depend on whether you’re a company-employed or self-employed 

  • Cargo van owner operator earns between $1 and $2 per mile 
  • Company cargo van driver earns between $0.038 and $0.050 per mile  

Depending on the time you spend on the road and the expenses you incur, the exact rate will vary all the time. Similarly, you’re bound to make more money if you deal directly with the clients and avoid load board-related fees or brokers. 

Most of the time you’ll be limited by the number of hours you work in a week. Independent drivers or owner-operators have the potential to earn more than company-employed drivers because they are their own bosses.    

To earn more per mile you will have to work even during odd hours and adequately for your routes.    


Company Cargo Vs. Owner Operator Van Driver 

There are many differences between a company cargo van driver and an owner-operator van driver. 

  1. Company Drivers Are Entitled to Benefits– Company drivers are ordinary employees in the company, and they earn various benefits. Some of the benefits include health insurance, worker’s compensation, and 401k retirement benefits from the employer. 
  1. Owner Operators Are Self Employed – Owner operators don’t have bosses, and are regarded as small business owners. They are also known as independent drivers because they partner with other freight companies using their own vans. Owner-operators can lease the van or use their own vans. If they lease, they are referred to as lease-purchase owner-operators.  

On the other hand, company drivers are employees of a freight company who drive the company’s van. They are paid either by the miles covered or the hours they work for. Company employees don’t own or lease the vans they’re using. 

  1. Tax Deductions – Company Drivers have their taxes deducted from their earnings by the employer. On the other hand, owner-operators pay their taxes from their earnings.. Therefore, as an owner-operator, you have to be vigilant to avoid owing IRS.  
  1. Owner Operators Earn More – Company drivers earn much less than the owner-operators. For instance, company drivers earn approximately $0.038 to $0.050 for every mile translating to about $15 to $25 per hour. The earning potential is limited to the number of hours worked in a week. 

On the other hand, an owner-operator earns much more, which is often calculated to about 70% of the load.  

For instance, if the freight pays $5.40 then you’ll be earning $3.78. As an owner-operator, you have the freedom to choose the load to deliver and which one to turn down. 


How Cargo Van Drivers Can Maximize Earnings 

There are many tricks and tips that a van driver can use to maximize earnings and minimize costs. 

  1. Save on Fuel – Identify fuel stations with the lowest pump price on your route and make them your go-to for refueling. Additionally, you can utilize the reward programs to save on fuel prices. To be on the safe side, always have enough cash for if you’ll drive over time or if your route changes unexpectedly. 
  1. Track Your Expenses – You need to manage all your revenues and expenses, and having accounting software is a plus. Something basic is enough; Even some free software or apps can do the job. 

There are many powerful and free accounting software in the market today, and they include Wave, GnuCash, ZipBooks, and CloudBooks. At the end of the year, you can give your accountant access to the software to expedite the tax preparation process and it will significantly reduce your accounting fees. 

However, before you do this, it’s best to speak to your accountant about what system they use and what they think is best. 

  1. Establish contacts with Direct Suppliers – You can use the industry associations in your locality to find clients. Being creative and thinking of the ideal associations your clients would be members of will help you grow professionally as cargo van driver.   

For instance, if your clients are retail stores, then you can identify the local retailer association clubs, and if possible you can join and be a member. Additionally, you can also identify local industries that are underserved and start offering your services to them.   

This approach will grow your business and earn more money as a cargo van driver, while at the same time avoiding board-related fees and broker charges. 

  1. Be an Employee in Your Company –  As your business grows, as an owner operator, you can decide to set yourself as an employee in your company. You can discuss the idea with your accountant to see if it’s a good idea.   

You need to be making a good amount from your business before you take this step.  

As an employee, you’ll be entitled to some perks such as bonuses, tax deductions, and 401k contributions. 

  1.  Use Load Boards – Load boards refer to online matchmaking that connects shippers and freight brokers with carriers making cargo vans and other tucks busy and occupied. Although this service makes everything convenient, it will eat into your profits. However, instead of remaining idle with no job load, these boards can be a worthwhile option. 


Calculating Cost Per Mile for A Cargo Van 

If you want to establish the rate per mile for your cargo van, you have to follow some simple steps, and this will help you estimate your expected net earnings.  Following these calculations, you’ll be able to determine your earnings per mile after taking into account all the costs.  

  1. Identify The Miles You’ll Cover – You need to figure out the total miles you’ll cover in a month, which should include both the compensated and non-compensated miles. On average owner-operated drivers cover about 8,400 miles in a month. 
  1. Identify Your Overall Fixed Expense – These are the expenses that remain constant each month regardless of the distances covered. Some of these fixed expenses include the following 
  • Health insurance 
  • Permits 
  • License plate 
  • Cargo van payments 
  • Deadhead insurance 
  • Collision insurance 

Most of these expenses are paid annually, and some are paid monthly. Whatever you pay annually, you have to divide by 12 to get your monthly expenses. 

  1. Calculate Your Variable Expenses – These are the expenses directly related to the miles covered. They will either go up or down depending on the miles covered each month. One of the most obvious variable expenses is fuel. Other expenses you have to consider every month include the following 
  • Repairs 
  • Tires 
  • Toll tax 
  • Food 
  • Broker related fees 
  • Phone bills 

Your biggest variable cost will be fuel and broker fees. You should drive economically to reduce fuel consumption and maybe will need to substitute brokers with your own clients to minimize your variable cost and increase your earnings. 

  1. Estimate Your Cost Per Mile – To get a better estimate, use all the previous data, use the estimate of the total miles you cover each month. You also have both the fixed and variable expenses. 

To get the cost per mile, you have to divide your total cost (Fixed cost + Variable cost) by the total number of miles in a month.  

For instance, if you have:  

  • Total miles per month as 8,800 miles 
  • Fixed monthly expenses $2,650 
  • Variable monthly expenses $6,200 

Then $2650 ÷ $8,800 = $0.30 

And $6,200 ÷ $8,800 = $0.70 


  • Total miles per month- 8,800 miles 
  • Fixed monthly expenses per mile – $0.30 
  • Variable monthly expenses per mile – $0.70 
  • Total cost per mile – $1.00 

A return of $1.00 for every mile (for the total 8,800 miles) each month would cover all your expenses. Therefore, anything above $1.00 will contribute towards your profits  


How to Earn More with Your Van 

If you’re not employed as a company driver, there are a few tricks you can use to earn more from your van. 

  1. Sign with Cargo Van Expediting Company – Cargo van expedite companies specializes in fast transportation of loads, typically providing shippers with same day or overnight deliveries. The majority offer 24-hour service for picking and dropping cargo. Cargo van expedite companies often list their services as emergency freight online. The majority offer local or regional deliveries. 

Some of these companies pay a percentage of the load pay, and others pay per mile. Cargo vans can earn anything from $1 to $2 per mile, but they usually involve a substantial deadhead, and you have to be on call even at odd hours. Therefore, you need to plan your routes well. Before signing with these companies, ensure your van matches the carrying capacity. Often they require 2-3 palettes capacity.  

  1. Using Cargo Van for Courier Services – You can use your van to offer courier services. Shippers in cities like New York and Chicago often choose vans over bikes for deliveries. Although courier jobs may seem an errand gig compared to jobs you can get from expediting companies. Do not restrict yourself only to manufacturers and wholesalers. Instead expand your services and include real estate agents, lawyers, and other businesses that may require quick deliveries of paperwork. 

Suburban areas offer better opportunities because they are increasingly relying on courier vans for same-day or hourly deliveries. You can check, Craigslist, or other websites for courier-based logistics companies that require your services.  Always ensure you work out the calculations so that you don’t run at a loss. 

  1. Market Yourself – To be successful and get more jobs depends on how you market yourself. Don’t rely only on traditional methods, instead be creative in looking for opportunities. The best approach is to treat your van as a sole proprietorship and market yourself aggressively. You can list your services on classified ads. Have business cards that explain the services you offer and how you can be reached all the time. Approach small manufacturers in your locality and offer on-demand deliveries whenever they need. Similarly, attend trade shows and find startups that may need outsourced cargo fleet.   



Working as a van driver can be one of the lucrative jobs in the market today because you only need to meet some basic requirements. The amount you’ll earn will depend on the type of van driver you choose.   

On average a company van driver will typically earn between $0.038 and $0.052 for every mile they will cover. On the other hand, an owner-operator van driver, who is an independent driver, will earn between $1.00 and $2.00 per mile on average.  

A company van driver is a typical employee, but an owner-operator is self-employed and does not have an employer. Both driving jobs have different advantages and disadvantages and opting for one over the other will largely depend on your needs. 

If you prefer being your own boss and take a higher risk, then choosing to be an owner-operator van driver should be your priority.  On the other hand, if you’re a risk-averse person and prefer a more predictable income, then opting for a job as a company driver van is the rational thing to do.