OTR Trucking: Is It the Right Choice for You?

Val Tkachuck
Val Tkachuck
March 7, 2024
OTR Trucking: Is It the Right Choice for You?

When opening your business in the field of cargo transportation, you have several options for creating a commercial offer to your clients: these are regional cargo transportation (within a province, state, region, etc.), dedicated cargo transportation (within a single network of a specific client), and also over the road cargo transportation (shipment on long distances). 

Actually, this article is devoted to the last type of tracking services – below, we will define the OTR meaning, consider the key differences with the other two types of shipping service, overview the salary range in the United States for OTR drivers, and also shed light on how to obtain the appropriate license and overcome possible obstacles in this niche.

What Does OTR Mean in Trucking?

Let's first answer the question: “What is OTR driving?” OTR or over the road transportation services are long-haul freight transportation that covers the entire continental territory of North America. Typically, drivers engaged in such cargo transportation are on the road for weeks and, sometimes, months.

The range of cargo that OTR drivers transport is extremely wide and often covers goods that are delivered by cargo ships to ports on the west and east coasts. In this regard, the distances they cover in one chain of trips reach thousands of miles.

Given the nature of this job, some drivers work in pairs to replace each other at the wheel when they need to sleep. Due to this, the trip time is also shortened – instead of a standard week, a pair of drivers cover the same distance in three to four days.

Here’s what OTR drivers say about the specifics of their work:

“You go where the company says. We had drivers that regularly just drove from our facility to Chicago and back. Others went from our facility to the Vegas one and back. Some went from our facility to Chicago, then to Vegas, then to us, and so on and so forth. Point is, you’re out on the road for many days at a time. You’ll be sleeping in your truck most of the time.” - Mike Motter, an OTR driver

What Is the Difference Between OTR vs. Regional vs. Dedicated?

Now let's take a closer look at the differences between OTR transportation, as well as regional and dedicated ones.

  OTR Regional Dedicated
Time on the road from several weeks to several months from one to two weeks it depends on the size of the customer’s network
Possible points of destination it can be in any state and even in Mexico and Canada it can be within a region where the specific trucking company operates it depends on the size of the customer’s network, however, usually, this service type is provided regionally
Ability to work in team the drivers can work alone or in the team solo driving most often – solo driving
Load level usually, fewer loads over longer distances huge loads over shorter distances it depends on preferences of a specific customer

OTR Trucker Salary Ranges

It is worth noting that due to more difficult working conditions, OTR truck drivers usually have a higher salary level (about 24% more) than regional and dedicated drivers – this is primarily because they are required to spend the nights away from home during their working periods.

The salary for OTR drivers is formed on a per-mile basis, or it is a fixed percentage of the income for transporting cargo (or income for the sale of this cargo). At the same time, salaries for regional drivers are often calculated based on the number of hours spent on the road. The only opportunity to receive a salary comparable to OTR drivers’ one is to transport dangerous and specific cargo that requires special transportation conditions.

OTR Trucker Salary Ranges

Returning to over the road driver salaries, in the US, they earn an average of $62,971 per year, according to Payscale. However, it all depends on the company they work for. The fact is that there are also regional differences in salary levels – the most highly paid these days are companies localized in cities such as Phoenix (AZ), Dallas (TX), Omaha (NE), Nashville (TN), Tulsa (OK), Chicago (IL), Chattanooga (TN), Springfield (MO), and Salt Lake City (UT).

How to Become an OTR Truck Driver

Any driver who has received a commercial driver's license (CDL) can obtain the right to provide over the road trucking services. However, you should understand that CDLs can belong to one of these three types:

  • Class A CDL, to drive trucks with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, if the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. Please note that drivers with a Class A CDL license are also able to drive most Class B and C trucks.
  • Class B CDL, to drive trucks from 26,001 pounds GVWR, without a trailer or with a trailer up to 10,000 lbs GVWR.
  • Class C CDL, for driving trucks with a GCWR of less than 26,001 pounds and towing another vehicle up to 10,000 pounds. This license allows the shipment of dangerous goods as well – for this, the driver has to receive the appropriate approval – N (for transporting flammable liquids and gas), T (for transporting double or triple trailers), or X (for transporting hazardous materials in a tank).

You can also read more in our blog.

The Challenges of Being an OTR Trucker

Generally speaking, the work of OTR drivers is quite complex – this, in fact, is what causes the high staff turnover in this niche. So, what challenges can companies providing OTR trucking services face?

  • The need to comply with Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. Under current HOS regulations, drivers cannot operate a truck for more than 11 hours at a time (and no more than 14 hours total in a workday). They can then continue their work duties after at least 10 hours of rest. They must also take 30-minute driving breaks after 8 continuous hours of driving. There are restrictions on the working week as well – if drivers spend more than 60 hours on the road during a week, after that, they are required to spend 34 hours away from work. To ensure that carriers providing OTR truck driving services comply with these standards, ELD devices have been in effect in the United States since 2019. Now, these devices must be present on board for every driver.
  • Downtime due to delayed cargo during acceptance or unloading. This is a fairly common problem that needs to be taken into account when planning routes. Delays usually last two to three hours but can be longer.
  • Stress. Stress can become a constant companion for your drivers, both due to accidents on the road and due to the constant distance from home and family.
  • Occupational diseases. Due to a sedentary style of work, many drivers face chronic diseases related to the musculoskeletal system, excess weight, and the circulatory system.
  • Problems with local infrastructure. With more than half of the roads in the United States in poor condition, your trucks and tires may require repairs and inspections sooner than expected.

In general, a solution to the vast majority of these problems already exists. Read more about it here:


In general, the OTR driving service niche has many challenges that even experienced carrier companies face, so you will need to prepare to effectively overcome them in advance. In particular, you can learn about all this on our blog – we have many articles that will be useful to both beginners and experienced players in this market.