Drive along any road, and you’ll find semi-trucks transporting freight and other goods. From daily consumables to items that last for years, the trucking industry is critical in ensuring products reach factories, shelves and customers’ doorsteps – particularly as we approach the holiday season.
Essentially, truck drivers are the ones who keep the market dynamics of demand and supply alive.
In the big picture, truck drivers are the backbone of any economy – a point that was further underscored when the COVID pandemic struck. Despite their historical sacrifice of working long hours for modest pay, very few people appreciate the efforts of our truck drivers.
It seems many passenger car drivers can easily become testy about sharing the highway with heavily loaded, slow-moving semi-trucks, but they’re missing the bigger picture.
Behind the wheels of tractor-trailers delivering goods of all types, these long-haul truck drivers are the unsung heroes of the supply chain. Without them, we would not enjoy life as we do.
Truck Drivers – the Backbone of America’s Economy
The collapse of the trucking industry would likely bring the world’s economy to a grinding halt. According to US statistics, trucks move up to 70 percent of items annually. Freight revenue generated by the American trucking industry nearly hit the 800-billion-dollar mark in 2019, exceeding the GDP of the world’s 18th largest economy!
Currently, the industry offers employment to more than 13 million US citizens, accounting for a whopping 7 percent of all jobs. Of these, 3.5 million are truck drivers who are the lifeline of the industry. Without drivers, 10 billion tons of freight would never be transported, and more than 54 billion gallons of fuel would remain unconsumed.
As the population increases and the trends of online shopping and e-commerce continue to grow in popularity, a rise in demand for trucking services is inevitable. To keep supply chains humming smoothly more truck drivers will be needed. As demand for those with Commercial Driving Licenses (CDLs) is skyrocketing, so are wages, adding cost to the final tally.
Truck Driving – A Sacrifice or a Lifestyle?
Truck drivers travel their routes both day and night to deliver their loads on time. Typically, a long-haul commercial truck driver will work about 70 hours a week, so about 30 hours more than employees in other industries. Recent changes in regulations mandate that drivers are provided enough time in their schedules for adequate rest stops and sleep.
While other employees can return to their homes each evening, many long-haul truck drivers only make it home for one or two weekends in a month. There’s no difference between holidays and working days for most of these uncelebrated heroes because work demands rarely change. For some, this lifestyle is attractive, providing more freedom and interest than a “desk” job.
The longer you stay on the road, the higher the risk of getting involved in an accident. Even though trucks are involved only in 16 percent of traffic accidents, in one sense professional truck drivers perpetually put their safety at risk.
From a health perspective as well, since truck drivers spend most of their time on the road, a majority struggle with obesity issues. Not having time to exercise or eat properly prepared meals because of the time factor and limited availability of healthy food options along the way, truck drivers are known to have poor eating habits, resulting in poor overall health.
Although these unsung supply chain heroes drive for almost 110,000 miles per year, a truck driver earns an average salary of just $44,500 per year, lower than other professions requiring a similar level of sacrifice and commitment.
However, this seeming imbalance is changing due spiking demand for drivers and the critical role it plays in almost every supply chain. Annual earnings have escalated to nearly $100,000 per year in some locations for particular types of commercial truck operators.