American Truckers Deserve Your Appreciation

The importance of truckers to the economy has been on full display as supply-chain disruptions continue.

Andy Arendt
by Andy Arendt
September 14, 2016

Somewhere between Kansas City and St. Joseph, Mo., I gained a lifelong respect for truck drivers.

Early in my career I accepted a job that required a move from Kansas City to Rapid City, S.D. In an effort to pocket more of the move allowance, I rented a truck for the contents of my apartment and a trailer for my company car, which I was to pick up in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Thirty miles into the 700-mile journey, I attempted a right-hand lane change. Although I checked my mirrors twice and signaled well before the change, upon easing into the lane I heard the horn blast from the car I nearly side-swiped.

Later, nerves still shot from the close call, I stopped for gas at a truck stop and looked at the trucks and thought, “How in the world do these guys do this?”

In recent years I’ve been fortunate to spend time with a small number of the 3.36 million professional truck drivers while doing research at events like the Mid-American Truck Show and American Trucking Show.

I found these folks to be conscientious, hard-working professionals deserving of our respect and acknowledgment. Hopefully by sharing a few insights about truckers, you’ll acquire a similar level of respect.

Truckers Critical To U.S. Economy

Starting with the house you live in, truckers have a big impact on your life.

  • Each house built in the U.S. requires an average of 10 truckloads of materials. Chances are everything in your house was transported on a truck.
  • 72.5% of all freight tonnage in the U.S. is transported by truck.
  • Trucking collects more than $732 billion in revenue.
  • 7.65 million people are employed throughout the economy in jobs that relate to trucking activity, excluding the self-employed.

Economic Pressures Of The Trucking Industry

The reason trucking makes up such a significant part of the transportation economy is that for decades the industry has delivered excellent reliability and service at comparatively low freight rates. This outstanding value is the result of fierce competition and a focus on optimizing efficiency within the trucking industry. Although businesses and consumers benefit from this value, it presents significant challenges for the American trucker.

Increased traffic congestion is one of those challenges. Truckers earn an average of $0.40 per mile, and when they’re sitting in traffic, truckers aren’t getting paid.

In addition, there’s a limit to the number hours truckers can spend on the road, which is an important safety consideration. But when they’re stuck in traffic, they’re also burning up available hours.

To compound the challenge there are often financial penalties for showing up too early or too late. These challenges are something to be mindful of the next time you’re stuck in traffic and frustrated because you can’t get to the mall.

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Critical Truck Driver Shortage

The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates the number of truck drivers declined 6.8% from 2019 to 2020. The shortage has been on full display since the Covid pandemic, contributing to supply-chain disruptions and supply shortages throughout the economy.

According to industry analysts, compensation is one of the major factors driving the shortage.

In 1980 truckers made $38,618 annually. If those earnings had grown with inflation, truckers should be making nearly $133,000 today. However, according to job-search site Indeed.com, average pay is just shy of $75,000.

Give Truckers Their Due By Giving Them Some Room – And Respect

Giving trucks some additional room when you merge, follow or pass is a great way to show your appreciation. Passing is of particular importance because the truck in your mirror is carrying 15 tons of freight and can’t stop on a dime. The extra consideration you extend to truckers has the added benefit of making the road a bit more safe for everyone else.

Give truckers a little respect, too. Without their hard work, most of the food, clothing, electronics and other items you rely on every day would never reach the store…or your front door. Understand their tight schedules and show a some courtesy and understanding if something doesn’t arrive precisely when you want it. They’re doing they best they can given all the challenges they face.

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by Andy Arendt

Director of Technical Marketing at AMSOIL. A 26-year veteran marketer in the petroleum industry I have diverse understanding of the lubricants market. Away from work, I enjoy pheasant and waterfowl hunting, staying fit and home improvement projects.

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