Per Diem and Other Truck Driver Tax Deductions

Truck drivers can deduct several work-related expenses as long as those costs are “ordinary and necessary” to the job. Below is a list of important deductions you could consider when you file your taxes online with TaxSlayer. Many of these write-offs only apply to self-employed drivers (owner-operators), but some can also apply to drivers working for a company.  

A couple of things to remember: 

  • In order to claim a deduction, you must have a “tax home.” This means that you need to provide a permanent address where you receive mail. 
  • If you are a hired employee, you should not claim tax deductions for expenses your employer covers or reimburses. 

Mileage and maintenance 

If you own your own truck, you will need to claim your actual expenses on your tax return. You won’t be able to use the standard rate for mileage. This is because a semi-truck is considered a non-personal use vehicle by the IRS. To deduct your actual expenses, you will report the exact number of miles you drove on the job, plus your vehicle-related costs. Those costs include things like: 

  • Gas*  
  • Batteries 
  • Tires 
  • Cleaning supplies 
  • Parts and repairs  
  • Insurance premium payments 
  • Loan interest 

*If you work for a company, but you spent more than $100.00 on fuel out of your own pocket and it was not reimbursed by your employer, you may deduct your fuel expense.  


Any equipment you use for your business that depreciates over time can be deducted. These items include trucks, trailers, computers and electronic devices, office equipment, and furniture. There are different methods that you can use to depreciate your truck and trailer. Trucks with an attached cargo unit are depreciated over five years for regular tax, and 5th wheel tractors are depreciated over three years. 

Per diem and travel expenses  

The IRS allows self-employed drivers and owner-operators to deduct certain costs under the category of “travel expenses.” These include the cost of meals, plus accommodations, tolls, and parking. 

To be eligible to write off travel costs, both of these statements must be true:  

  • Your work requires that you travel away from your tax home for “substantially longer” than the length of a workday. 
  • You will be sleeping away from home while traveling for work. 

Truck drivers can either deduct 80% of their actual meal expenses or the per diem rate. As of January 2021, the per diem rate is $66 per day for travel within the continental U.S. or $71 outside the continental U.S. (although rates may vary depending on location).

Note: Per diem does not apply for lodging. Truck drivers are required to claim actual lodging expenses.

Personal items  

If you purchased items that help you do your job, those costs may be deducted on your tax return. That includes basic necessities, like flashlights, gloves, calculators, pens and paper, postage, luggage, logbook papers, gloves, etc. 

Employee drivers can deduct these expenses as long as they are necessary for the job and/or operation of the truck but are not reimbursed by the company.

Licensing and association fees 

Yes, the costs of obtaining and maintaining your CDL license are tax-deductible. That includes training programs and continuing education. If you are a member of a union or collective, you can also deduct your dues to those associations. 

Truck driver tax deductions are easy to claim if you choose the right tax filing platform. TaxSlayer Self-Employed is specially designed to meet the needs of self-employed individuals like you. We find your tax breaks and do the calculations for you, so you spend less time filing and more time earning money on the job.  

The information in this article is up to date through tax year 2021 (taxes filed 2022). 

This article is intended to provide general information to the public and does not provide personalized tax, investment, legal, or business advice. You should seek the assistance of a professional for advice on taxes, investments, and any other financial, legal, or business matter pertinent to your individual situation.

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