According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are some 26 different job classifications falling into the “driver” category. These range from chauffeur, to courier, to truck driver, to bus driver, to taxi driver. As you might imagine, the highest paying driving jobs involve specialized licenses, unique experience, often hazardous or undesirable conditions, or interactions with hazardous materials. In this listing of the highest paying driving jobs, we’ll concentrate on positions considered valid fields of endeavor by the United States Department of Labor. You’ll find the desired qualifications and requirements, as well as links to information regarding applications and hiring processes for each job where appropriate.
Top 10 Highest Paying Driving Jobs
#1: Racing Engineer - Up to $150,000 Per Year
While not exactly a driving job per se, there are times when a racing engineer is required to take a car out on the track for evaluation purposes. Senior racing engineers can earn as much as $150,000 or more annually. The racing engineer serves as the interpreter between the mechanics and the driver on most racing teams. Based on feedback from the driver and the telemetry data streams from the car itself, the racing engineer makes determinations about the setup of the car to extract its maximum performance, and then passes that information on to the mechanics who do the actual setup. A strong mechanical/automotive engineering background is ideal. Hands-on experience is essential, so the best way to get the job is to work your way up through the ranks on a racing team.
#2: Over The Road Truck Driver - $50,000 - $100,000 Per Year
According to the Website AllTrucking.com, over the road (OTR) truck drivers are well-paid because of the travel, long hours, and the fact they must be cognizant of the myriad laws governing their profession. Basic requirements include a minimum age of 21 years old (ideally 23), a commercial driver’s license, and passing the D.O.T. physical. Over the past three years, there can be no DUI, DWI, BACs or failed drug or alcohol tests. No reckless driving convictions, license suspensions, nor more than four moving violations or accidents. Criminal histories are frowned upon. You’ll find more requirements and a typical application process here. The average salary is approximately $50,000 annually. Drivers in extreme situations can earn really good money—approaching $100,000 annually.
#3: War Zone Truck Driver - $50,000 - $100,000 Per Year
A specific subset of the OTR truck driver profession is the war zone truck driver. With ongoing conflicts (though currently winding down) in Afghanistan and Iraq, many driving jobs formerly taken on by the military have been outsourced to civilian contractors. These jobs typically involve hauling material from the airfields and ports to the field when they can be employed by the armed forces. The basic requirements and qualifications are largely the same as a domestic OTR truck driver, with the added dimension of understanding you may be physically attacked, fired upon, captured, and/or killed. These jobs routinely pay in the six-figure range, but of course, the risks are exceptionally high. To find application information potential employers include Titan Group, and KBR.
#4: Film And Television Stunt Driver - $100,000 + Per Year
Drivers in the film and television industry get paid well—when they’re working. The thing is it goes from project to project. Some days you work, some days you don’t. If you’re among the fortunate few, you can take home six figures annually. There is a very specific skill-set involved to deliver what directors want and walk away at the end of the day. The requirements and qualifications include a valid driver’s license, exceptional physical fitness, and ideally, a youthful appearance. Attending a stunt-driving school to prepare for the work is a smart play, as many offer placement assistance. Still, getting in typically involves interning and job shadowing, so living in an area with a lot of industry work is mandatory.
#5: Factory Test Driver - $70,000 + Per Year
Manufacturers such as Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors need drivers on their engineering teams to evaluate various aspects of their automobiles during the development processes as models are being ready for eventual sale. To qualify for these high five-figure positions, applicants would ideally have some college-level coursework in automotive engineering and design, like an AA or a BA in Mechanical Engineering. Basic auto mechanic coursework is good too. The more you know about the various systems comprising modern automobiles, the more likely you are to get the job. Test drivers often work their way into the position from lesser jobs at the company while waiting for a test driver position to open. Any related opening could lead to a test driver position once you’re hired.
#6: Private Chauffeur - $65,000 - $70,000 Per Year
Depending upon the employer and the additional skills required, serving as a chauffeur for one of the “One Percent-er” families has the potential to be a reasonably lucrative position. A recent posting on the SocietyStaffing.com Website lists a driver/houseman position in New York with a salary range of $65,000 to $70,000 annually. The job description includes driving family members to and from general destinations, maintaining the family’s fleet of automobiles, running errands, and keeping all of the vehicle’s registrations and insurance coverage current. Requirements include a valid driver’s license with a clean driving record, defensive driving training, and five years of experience as a private chauffeur. Long hours are required from time to time, as is intimate knowledge of the area in which the family resides.
#7: Highway Patrol Officer - Average of $74,700 Per Year
While perhaps not the first job people would consider when they think of a driving job, the fact of the matter is the average Highway Patrol Officer/State Trooper spends lots of time behind the wheel on the highways, freeways, and Interstates. Base salary for an officer averages approximately $74,700. Among the desired qualifications are an age between 20 and 35, uncorrected vision of no less than 20/40, and normal color vision. Ideal applicants will have at least a high school diploma or GED and must successfully complete the Highway Patrol Academy. Computer skills are a must, as are strong English, reading, comprehension, and mathematics. A record free of criminal convictions and a valid California Driver’s License are also required. You’ll find a typical application process here.
#8: UPS Driver - $70,000 + Per Year
Those in the know will tell you UPS pays its drivers well. Between salary and overtime, a UPS driver can easily surpass the $70,000 a year mark or better. Make no mistake, it isn’t an easy job and must be done rain or shine—but the pay is compelling. According to the UPS Website, you must pass a DOT physical exam and have the ability to operate a standard (manual) transmission vehicle. Certain positions may also require additional qualifications, such as a commercial drivers license (“A” or “B”), Department of Transportation certifications (“Hazmat”, “Doubles”, etc.) or the ability to lift, lower and maneuver packages between 25 and 70 lbs. depending upon the job. You’ll find more qualifications and application information at this link.
#9: Locomotive Engineer - Average of $53,000 Per Year
A bit outside of the box perhaps, but drivers nonetheless, locomotive engineers average approximately $53,000 annually according to occupational employment statistics issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These people drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, and/or gas-turbine-electric locomotives to transport passengers or freight. They must be capable of interpreting train orders, electronic and/or manual signals, and railroad rules and regulations. Railroads typically require locomotive engineers to work up through train crew jobs such as switch person or brake person performing on-the-ground traffic control. As a newly hired train crew employee, you can expect to earn about $41,000 a year. As you advance to conductor and locomotive engineer positions, you can earn up to $75,000 a year. Qualifications and application information can be found at that link.
#10: Greyhound Bus Driver - Average of $48,000 Per Year
According to the Greyhound.com Website, the Greyhound driver's mission is to make enjoyable travel possible for everyone, providing the opportunity for anyone to travel in North America with safety, dignity, and convenience. Applicants must be at least be at least 22 years of age; pass a DOT physical, criminal background check, and drug screening. They also need a valid driver's license, a good driving record, and must be able to obtain a passport to cross the Canadian border. They also must successfully complete Greyhound's driver training program. Training involves an intense six-week program incorporating behind the wheel instruction. Salary varies somewhat by location but averages just under $48,000 annually. Here’s everything you need to apply.
Yes, it is possible to make a decent living as a driver. Further, many of the positions listed—particularly those with well-established companies—offer benefits such as medical insurance, dental insurance, vision care, and retirement plans. Further, this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Fans of the Transporter series of films will be happy to learn such opportunities do exist, though they reside well below the radar of employment agencies. If you’re harboring dreams of racing across the countryside with a beautiful companion, you’re on your own finding one of those. Still, if the idea of making a living on the road (or the rails) appeals to you, a wide variety of down to earth opportunities exist.