Railroads helped build America, but the trucking industry helps keep it running today. When you buy a product from a store, there’s a good chance it arrived via a freight truck rather than by train or boat. Trucks transport everything from frozen food to perforated tubing. By one measure, trucks are responsible for 68 percent of freight tonnage in the United States. Here are three more things you should know about the trucking industry.
Demand for truckers is higher than supply
Often, you seem to pass a truck hauling freight every time you get on the freeway, and there are millions of people employed in the industry. To be more precise, there are about 7 million trucking jobs in the country. About 3.5 million of those jobs are in driving. Despite that, the industry still has trouble finding people willing to climb in a cab and a take long trips around the continent.
The American Trucking Associations estimates that it needs more than 50,000 additional drivers to meet the demand from mega-retailers like Walmart and Amazon. But trucking is not an easy lifestyle to maintain. Even people who have done it for 10 or 20 years struggle with the long spells of sitting. When you aren’t sitting, you’re stopping at a fast food restaurant or roadside diner to eat greasy food.
Trucking companies know all this, of course, and that’s why they offer higher salaries and bonuses. But that’s still not enough for people who want to leave work in the morning and come home every night. Relationships are almost impossible to maintain when you start one morning in Michigan and end the day in Minnesota, especially if you live over in Pennsylvania.
Technology makes trucking more efficient
Trucking is sometimes romanticized as an old-school job designed for tough blue-collar workers who have no use for modern technology. But just about every industry has to use some kind of technology to keep up, and the trucking industry is no exception.
Thirty years ago, truckers kept a road map in the front of the cab with them. If they needed to call the company about a shipment, they had to find a phone somewhere on the road. But nowadays, trucking companies can use a variety of computer services to get them from Point A to Point B. If a trucker is on the road in Kansas when they realize they’re going to need to find a repair shop, they can simply pull up software like FleetPal Connect and get hooked up with a local repair service.
The hours on the road are still tough, but technology makes it easier to backtrack if a trucker takes the wrong exit. A GPS system can get you back on the road within a matter of minutes, which is a lot speedier than sitting in your cab and staring at a map until you figure out what happened.
Men still dominate the industry
The gender gap persists in the trucking industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 6.2 percent of truck drivers are women. 15 years ago, that number was 4.5 percent. One woman in the industry told CNBC, “Women in male-dominated industries need to prove themselves, and the trucking industry isn’t any exception.”
The women who are in the business say that they appreciate the good pay and benefits, but they also say safety concerns can be an issue. Long-haul truckers have to sleep in rest stops or parking lots. That can be dangerous for anyone, but the safety concerns are often heightened for women. Those who take to trucking to often can’t imagine doing anything else, but recruiting women remain will likely remain a challenge for the foreseeable future.