In the last few weeks, the trucking industry has been in the news more than usual … so we’ve collected the most interesting facts, figures and hot takes for you here.
- S. trucks transported 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017.
- The trucking industry saw annual revenue of $700.1 billion in 2017.
- 5 million people were employed as truckers in 2017, and 1.7 million of those truckers drove heavy and tractor-trailer trucks.
- About 40% of truck drivers are minorities, and 6.2% are women.
These numbers appear relatively healthy, but as Fleet Owner reports, the number of active truckers has actually decreased from 2016. In 2017, there were about 36,000 fewer truckers, or 1% less, than in 2016. This is particularly noteworthy because it’s the first decrease we’ve seen since 2011.
Another interesting – and related – figure: trucker incomes. The New York Times Editorial Board recently wrote that the value of truck driver compensation has significantly decreased over time. For example, in 1979, the average truck driver earned about $17,400, which is equivalent to about $55,500 in 2017 dollars. In 2017, drivers of heavy and tractor-trailer trucks reported average earnings of $44,500, comparatively less than 1979 rates (when adjusting for inflation).
Unfortunately, compensation isn’t the only thing that’s changed; these days, truckers also work longer hours – often 60 to 80 a week. And because most truckers are paid by the mile and not the hour, the many hours that they spend waiting for cargo are unpaid, resulting in paychecks that, when calculated by hours worked, are far below minimum wage.
In this vein, a recent Business Insider article profiles a British truck driver who has driven in the U.S., Canada and Britain. Because British truckers are paid hourly and not by distance, they have a steadier source of income and do not feel pressured to drive in unsafe conditions in order to meet a certain distance so that they will be paid enough. As a result, British truckers are less likely to put themselves and others at risk by remaining on the road when the roads are icy or dangerous, or when the driver himself/herself is fatigued.
The recent flurry of industry news is not all bad, however. In response to The New York Times Editorial Board’s piece, American Trucking Associations President and Chief Executive Chris Spear wrote in a letter to the editors that trucking is one of the few remaining ways in which Americans can make a decent living without having to shoulder the financial burden of a college degree.
He also notes that many fleets are increasing their pay and offering signing bonuses in order to better help truckers earn a comfortable living. He also predicts that as e-commerce continues to boom, the demand for truckers will only increase.