Are There Always Jobs in the Trucking Business?
Over the Road Trucking is Always in Demand.
Due to a trucker shortage in the industry, over-the-road truck drivers have recently been in high demand. The potential reasons for this vary: long hours on the road; being away from home; or the mental and physical strain of steering heavy freight at high speeds around the nations’ highways and byways. OTR isn’t an easy job.
For one reason or another, former truck drivers made decisions to leave the trucking business. As a result, companies are always on the lookout for new drivers, and this is good news for those truly committed to becoming a truck driver.
The fact that truck driving is always in demand means that those with a Class A CDL will be able to find a job, even during tough economic times.
Additionally, both the trucking industry and the employment of truck drivers rise and fall with the rates of manufacturing and industrial output.
With a constant flow of new consumer technology, possession of smart devices, and the growth of online sales, the future of the trucking business is strong.
Local Jobs May Not Always Have Availability.
When looking for local driving jobs, applicants find that many require only a Class B, Class C, or chauffeur’s license. Those jobs are more difficult to find and secure, however, because many competitive job seekers want a position that’s easier, close to home, and requires less hours on the road.
When those jobs are found to be scarce or non-existent, jobseekers with a Class A license are in the best position to secure employment in the trucking industry. Class A CDL drivers have the ability to drive tractor-trailers as well as any truck/van requiring a lesser CDL.
Truck Driver Job Growth Rates
Trucks handle most of the nations’ freight, nearly 80% of the total volume, equaling over $600 billion. The US Department of Labor projects that employment of delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers is projected to grow by 4% between now and 2024. The department also shows that the employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers should grow by 5% during the same time. This is a great indicator that the future demand of the trucking industry is strong.
The e-Commerce Economy
Another factor in the demand for truck drivers is the widespread and rapid expansion of e-commerce transactions.
As Americans buy and sell more products online, they become increasingly reliant on shipments made to their door. No longer do Americans expect to buy everything at their local brick-and-mortar stores.
E-commerce means more truckers in demand.
As the online economy grows and the demand for goods rises, truck drivers will be needed to keep the supply chain moving. E-commerce not only raises the demand for freight transportation, but also for hand laborers, material movers, delivery drivers, and other related positions.
Related Jobs in the Trucking Industry
There is not much upward mobility in the traditional sense in the trucking business, but there is plenty of lateral movement, allowing a driver with a Class A CDL tons of options. Experienced drivers may find themselves interested in the following related fields:
- Truck Driver Training Instructor
- Future opportunities taking off in the technological sector. (i.e. Apps and systems that optimize truck driving routes or improve fuel economy)
These opportunities start with the truck drivers. Especially with a trucker shortage, the trucking industry needs more men and women to get excited about the future. There are many opportunities on the road, and America counts on the continued demand of the trucking business to deliver their groceries as well as their e-commerce purchases.
Is There a Future in the Trucking Industry?
Trucking has never been an easy profession, and now more than ever, people are especially reluctant to join the industry as drivers. Truck drivers deal with:
- Being away from home for long periods of time
- Living and sleeping in a confined space
- Using public facilities for showers/bathrooms
Many aspiring drivers assume trucking is just an “easy job,” and they end up quitting before their first year.
Despite the fact that becoming a truck driver is relatively fast and doesn’t require a college degree, the lifestyle keeps many people away. As a result, there is a major trucker shortage that threatens the consumer lifestyles we live.
Over the long-term, truck drivers’ wages had been decreasing. Recent years, however, show a reversal. Because of the shortage, the trucking business has been giving its drivers larger raises when compared to other jobs. From 2015 to October 2016, truckers’ wages increased an average of 7.8%, considerably more than the overall wage growth of 2.8%, according to CNN.
C.R. England in January of 2016 raised wages by 12.4%. Swift saw an 18% increase in salaries and benefits in 2015 compared to the previous year, not only due to its drivers logging more miles, but also “driver wage hikes”. While wage increases can fluctuate and should not be taken for granted, the shortage of truck drivers is helping to keep them coming. As the driver shortage is expected to escalate to almost 175,000 drivers needed by 2024, the wage increases may very well continue until the shortage is met or an alternative solution is found, such as automated trucks.
In dealing with the shortage, automated trucks are a pervasive hot topic, especially given the recent advances in driverless passenger cars made by Google, Uber, Tesla, Apple, and even Samsung. Daimler, Embark, and Otto have been making their own advances in automated trucks.
While many consider automated trucks hostile to the traditional driver, truck drivers have nothing to fear for the future because even automated trucks will require someone to sit in the driver’s seat for a long time to come.
Companies like Daimler, Embark (a self-driving trucking startup), and Otto have been developing driverless trucks for quite a while now. In 2015, Daimler revealed the first autonomous truck licensed for testing on public roads, a Freightliner called the “Inspiration Truck”.
The move came a year after showcasing the Mercedes-Benz “Future Truck” concept, which could only drive on closed-off roads.
The Inspiration Truck isn’t ready to hit Route 66 alone, though. The Inspiration Truck has a “Highway Pilot” mode, during which it can stay in lane, but the driver has to remain behind the wheel in case the truck determines it can’t continue by itself, due to sharp turns or other reasons. The truck is unable to overtake slower vehicles, change lanes, take exits, park, work on roads with insufficient markings, or in cities. Because of these limitations, semi-autonomous trucks will likely require driver assistance for at least the next decade.¹
With market-researchers expecting to see autonomous trucks by 2025, drivers need not worry about their immediate employment. The current level of available automation on trucks like the Inspiration Truck can be compared to the most basic form of autopilot available to aviators. And even now, airplanes still need pilots.
Truck automation is in the very first phase of testing and creating an “autopilot”, and even when it becomes as sophisticated as that in an aircraft, a human overseer will still be required. A combination of automation and driver control seems to be the optimal choice, to both improve safety and take some load off of the commercial drivers that we rely on to transport our essential goods.
Regulations and restrictions placed on drivers continue to be some of the industry’s biggest issues, most notably the Hours of Service restriction. In trucking, if you’re not driving, you’re not making money. Drivers often have no choice in wasting hours while sitting getting their truck loaded or unloaded. Drivers stress out over service hour regulations and the consequences of breaking them rather than making safe decisions. Unfortunately, safety sometimes takes a backseat because miles, not hours, make money in the trucking business.
There has been debate over the HOS rule, and the first revision came in 2013 when the 34-hour weekly restart was redefined. Portions of the new rule were challenged by trucking associations and even suspended by Congress in 2015 to give time to analyze how the new rule impacted the industry. However, this restriction is in place in order to ensure the safety of drivers and the motoring public.
The new electronic logging is bound to bring some changes to the industry, as there will be fewer opportunities to falsify logs. Route planning will have to be improved with tighter schedules and perhaps motor carriers will have to raise wages to compensate and keep drivers.² For the present, the Hours of Service limitation is a part of the trucking lifestyle, and drivers must adapt and overcome it, like any other obstacle faced while on the road.
The future of the trucking industry is like many others. There are future technological innovations that threaten to upend how business is done, and there are disputed safety regulations. Overall, the outlook is positive. Wages have been going up, and even automated trucks will require their own “pilots.” Furthermore, due to the trucking shortage, a job is out there if you want it.
Should I Be a Truck Driver?
The average salary of a trucker is the first detail to catch the eye aspiring drivers. For only weeks of training, truck driving provides a good income, but you must be prepared to work hard and get the miles you want for the highest wages. OTR truckers drive 60-70 hours per week, and they often don’t get paid while waiting around for loading and unloading the trailer.
Most of all, your personality dictates whether or not you should become a truck driver. This is truer for trucking than other professions.
Truckers won’t hesitate to tell you that driving is a more than a job. It’s a lifestyle.
If living on the road and traveling the country alone sounds like an adventure, then becoming a truck driver might be the best path for you.
Tackling new challenges every day can be a very rewarding experience for problem solvers and can-do personality types.
On the other hand, if you’re claustrophobic and need constant human companionship, then trucking will likely be too isolating for your needs. Personality traits vary from person to person, so only you can make the final decision to become a truck driver.
The best way to find out what it’s like to live the life of a truck driver is to actually talk to the drivers themselves. Head out to a truck stop and ask some truckers for a few moments of their time. Buy coffee and donuts for a few drivers to sit down with you and discuss their experiences. Five dollars to learn all about your future career may be the best you’ve ever spent.
On ClassADrivers.com, we’ve also compiled experiences and advice from truckers who have hit the road and made this their life. After you’ve decided that both the pay and your personality are a good fit, then your next step is to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)!