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.