Truck Transportation and Warehousing
Goods and services. Firms in the truck transportation and warehousing industry provide a link between manufacturers and consumers. Businesses, and occasionally individuals, contract with trucking and warehousing companies to pick up, transport, store, and deliver a variety of goods. The industry includes general freight trucking, specialized freight trucking, and warehousing and storage.
Industry organization. General freight trucking uses motor vehicles, such as trucks and tractor-trailers, to provide over-the-road transportation of general commodities. This industry segment is further subdivided based on distance traveled. Local trucking establishments carry goods primarily within a single metropolitan area and its adjacent non-urban areas. Long-distance trucking establishments carry goods between distant areas.
Local trucking comprised 28,000 trucking establishments in 2006. The work of local trucking firms varies with the products transported. Produce truckers usually pick up loaded trucks early in the morning and spend the rest of the day delivering produce to many different grocery stores. Lumber truck drivers, on the other hand, make several trips from the lumberyard to one or more construction sites. Some local truck transportation firms also take on sales and customer relations responsibilities, in addition to delivering the firms products. Some local trucking firms specialize in garbage collection and trash removal or hauling dirt and debris.
Long-distance trucking comprises establishments engaged primarily in providing trucking between distant areas and sometimes between the United States and Canada or Mexico. Numbering 41,000 establishments, these firms handle every kind of commodity.
Specialized freight trucking provides over-the-road transportation of freight, which, because of size, weight, shape, or other inherent characteristics, requires specialized equipment, such as flatbeds, tankers, or refrigerated trailers. This industry sector also includes the moving industrythat is, the transportation of used household, institutional, and commercial furniture. Like general freight trucking, specialized freight trucking is subdivided into local and long-distance components. The specialized freight trucking sector contained 48,000 establishments in 2006.
Some goods are carried cross country using intermodal transportation to save time and money. Intermodal transportation encompasses any combination of transportation by truck, train, plane, or ship. Typically, trucks perform at least one leg of the trip. For example, a shipment of cars from an assembly plant begins its journey when they are loaded onto rail cars. Next, trains haul the cars across country to a depot, where the shipments are broken into smaller lots and loaded onto tractor-trailers, which drive them to dealerships. Each of these steps is carefully orchestrated and timed so that the cars arrive just in time to be shipped on their next leg of their journey. Goods can be transported at lower cost this way, but they cannot be highly perishablelike fresh produceor have strict delivery schedules. Trucking dominates the transportation of perishable and time-sensitive goods.
Warehousing and storage facilities comprised 14,000 establishments in 2006. These firms are engaged primarily in operating warehousing and storage facilities for general merchandise and refrigerated goods. They provide facilities to store goods; self-storage mini-warehouses that rent to the general public also are included in this segment of the industry.
Recent developments. The deregulation of interstate trucking in 1980 encouraged many firms to add a wide range of customer-oriented services to complement trucking and warehousing services and led to innovations in the distribution process. Increasingly, trucking and warehousing firms provide logistical services encompassing the entire transportation process. Firms that offer these services are called third-party logistics providers. Logistical services manage all aspects of the movement of goods between producers and consumers. Among their value-added services are sorting bulk goods into customized lots, packaging and repackaging goods, controlling and managing inventory, order entering and fulfillment, labeling, performing light assembly, and marking prices. Some full-service companies even perform warranty repair work and serve as local parts distributors for manufacturers. Some of these services, such as maintaining and retrieving computerized inventory information on the location, age, and quantity of goods available, have helped to improve the efficiency of relationships between manufacturers and customers.
Many firms rely on new technologies and the coordination of processes to expedite the distribution of goods. The use of computers to analyze work routines in order to optimize the use of available labor has led to increases in productivity. Voice control software allows a computer to coordinate workers through audible commandstelling workers what items to pack for which ordershelping to reduce errors and increase efficiency. Voice control software also can be used to perform inventory checks and reordering. Some firms use Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) to track and manage incoming and outgoing shipments. RFID simplifies the receiving process by allowing entire shipments to be scanned without unpacking a load to manually compare it against a bill of lading. Just-in-time shipping is a process whereby goods arrive just before they are needed, saving recipients money by reducing their need to carry large inventories. These technologies and processes reflect two major trends in warehousing: supply chain integration, whereby firms involved in production, transportation, and storage all move in concert so as to act with the greatest possible efficiency; and ongoing attempts to reduce inventory levels and increase inventory accuracy.
Hours. In 2006, workers in the truck transportation industry averaged 40.9 hours a week, compared with an average of 37.9 hours in warehousing and storage and 33.9 in all private industries. The U.S. Department of Transportation governs work hours and many other working conditions of truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. Long-distance drivers are not permitted to drive after having worked for 60 hours in the past 7 days or 70 hours in the past 8 days, unless they have taken at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers are required to document their time in logbooks. Many drivers, particularly on long runs, work close to the maximum time permitted because employers usually compensate them on the basis of the number of miles or hours they drive. Drivers frequently travel at night, on holidays, and on weekends to avoid traffic delays so that they can deliver their cargo on time.
Work environment. Truck drivers must cope with a variety of working conditions, including variable weather and traffic conditions, boredom, and fatigue. Many truck drivers enjoy the independence and working without direct supervision found in long-distance driving. Local truck drivers often have regular routes or assignments that allow them to return home in the evening.
Improvements in roads and trucks reduce stress and increase the efficiency of long-distance drivers. Many advanced trucks are equipped with refrigerators, televisions, and beds for their drivers convenience. Included in some of these state-of-the-art vehicles are satellite links with their companys headquarters, so that drivers can get directions, weather and traffic reports, and other important communications in a matter of seconds. In the event of bad weather or mechanical problems, truckers can communicate with dispatchers to discuss delivery schedules and courses of action. Satellite links allow dispatchers to track the location of the truck and monitor fuel consumption and engine performance.
Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers usually work indoors, although they occasionally make repairs on the road. Minor cuts, burns, and bruises are common, but serious accidents typically can be avoided if the shop is kept clean and orderly and if safety practices are observed. Service technicians and mechanics handle greasy and dirty parts and may stand or lie in awkward positions to repair vehicles and equipment. They usually work in well-lighted, heated, and ventilated areas, but some shops are drafty and noisy.
Laborers, and hand freight, stock, and material movers usually work indoors, although they may do occasional work on trucks and fork lifts outside. These occupations often require a great deal of physical labor, including heavy lifting.
Safety is a major concern for the truck transportation and warehousing industry. The operation of trucks, fork lifts, and other technically advanced equipment can be dangerous without proper training and supervision. Truck drivers must adhere to federally mandated certifications and regulations requiring them to submit to drug and alcohol tests as a condition of employment. Employers are required to perform random on-the-job checks for drugs and alcohol.
In 2006, work-related injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers averaged 5.8 in the truck transportation industry and 8.0 in warehousing and storage, compared with a rate of 4.4 for the entire private sector. More than 8 out of 10 on-the-job fatalities in the truck transportation industry resulted from transportation related incidents.
The truck transportation and warehousing industry provided 2.1 million wage and salary jobs in 2006.
Most employees in the truck transportation and warehousing industry work in small establishments. About 60 percent of trucking and warehousing establishments employ fewer than 5 workers (chart 1). Consolidation in the industry has reduced the number of small, specialized firms. Trucking and warehousing establishments are found throughout the United States.
Truck drivers held about 45 percent of all salaried jobs, 924,000, in the industry. Other transportation and material moving jobs accounted for 25 percent of industry employment, while various office and administrative support occupations employed another 17 percent. Management, business, and financial occupations held 4 percent of all jobs in the industry; vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers accounted for 3 percent; and sales and related workers held 2 percent. In addition to the wage and salary workers, there were an estimated 292,000 self-employed and unpaid family workers in the industry.
Transportation and material moving occupations account for 69 percent of all jobs in the industry (table 1). Truck drivers and driver/sales workers, who hold 45 percent of all trucking and warehousing jobs, transport goods from one location to another. They ensure the safe delivery of cargo to a specific destination, often by a designated time. Drivers also perform some minor maintenance work on their vehicles and make routine safety checks.
The length of trips varies with the type of merchandise and its final destination. Local drivers provide regular service while other drivers make intercity and interstate deliveries that take longer and may vary from job to job. The drivers responsibilities and assignments change according to the time spent on the road and the type of payloads transported.
Local drivers typically have regular schedules and return home at the end of the day. They may deliver goods to stores or homes or haul away dirt and debris from excavation sites. Many local drivers cover the same routes daily or weekly. Long-distance truck drivers often are on the road for long stretches of time. Their trips vary from an overnight stay to a week or more. On longer trips, drivers sometimes sleep in bunks in their cabs or share the driving with another driver.
Laborers, and hand freight, stock, and material movers help load and unload freight and move it around warehouses and terminals. Often, these unskilled employees work together in groups of three or four. They may use conveyor belts, handtrucks, pallet jacks, or fork lifts to move freight. They may place heavy or bulky items on wooden skids or pallets to be moved by industrial trucks.
Office and administrative support workers perform the daily recordkeeping operations for the truck transportation and warehousing industry. Dispatchers coordinate the movement of freight and trucks, and provide the main communication link that informs the truck drivers of their assignments, schedules, and routes. Dispatchers frequently receive new shipping orders on short notice and must juggle drivers assignments and schedules to accommodate a client. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks keep records of shipments arriving and leaving. They verify the contents of trucks cargo against shipping records. They also may pack and move stock. Billing and posting clerks and machine operators maintain company records of the shipping rates negotiated with customers and shipping charges incurred; they also prepare customer invoices.
Workers in installation, maintenance, and repair occupations generally enter these jobs only after acquiring experience in related jobs or after receiving specialized training. Many vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers require special vocational training. Service technicians and mechanics in trucking and warehousing firms perform preventive safety checks as well as routine service and repairs. Service technicians and mechanics sometimes advance to parts manager positions. Parts managers maintain the supply of replacement parts needed to repair vehicles. Parts managers monitor the parts inventory using a computerized system and purchase new parts to replenish supplies. These employees need mechanical knowledge and must be familiar with computers and purchasing procedures.
Sales and related workers sell trucking and warehousing services to shippers of goods. They meet with prospective buyers, discuss the customers needs, and suggest appropriate services. Travel may be required, and many analyze sales statistics, prepare reports, and handle some administrative duties.
Managerial staff provides general direction to the firm. They staff, supervise, and provide safety and other training to workers in the various occupations. They also resolve logistical problems such as forecasting the demand for transportation; mapping out the most efficient traffic routes; ordering parts and equipment service support; and scheduling the transportation of goods.
Many jobs in the truck transportation and warehousing industry require only a high school education, although an increasing number of workers have at least some college education. College education is most important for those seeking positions in management. Increasing emphasis on formal education stems from the increasing use of technology in the industry. Nearly all operations involve computers and information management systems. Many occupationsespecially those involved in scheduling, ordering, and receivingrequire detail-oriented people with computer skills. A growing number of employers recommend some form of formal training. Some companies provide such training in-house. Other sources of training include trade associations, unions, and vocational schools. Many companies have specific curricula on safety and procedural issues, as well as on occupational duties.
Whereas many States allow those who are 18 years old to drive trucks within their borders, the U.S. Department of Transportation establishes minimum qualifications for truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require truck drivers to be at least 21 years old, have at least 20/40 vision and good hearing, and be able to read and speak English. They also must have good driving records and a commercial drivers license, which they obtain by passing a written examination and a skills test in which they operate the type of vehicle they will be driving. Commercial drivers licenses are issued by the individual States. Companies often have additional requirements that applicants must meet.
Some enter the occupation by attending training schools for truck drivers. Many large trucking companies have formal training programs that prospective drivers attend. Other companies assign experienced drivers to teach and mentor newer drivers. Schools vary greatly in the quality of training they provide, but they are becoming more standardized. Local trucking firms often start drivers as truck driver helpers.
Experienced and reliable truck drivers with good driving records receive better pay as well as more desirable routes, schedules, or loads. Because of increased competition for experienced drivers, some larger companies are luring these drivers with higher wages, signing bonuses, and preferred assignments. Some trucking firms hire only experienced drivers.
Some long-distance truck drivers purchase trucks and go into business for themselves. Although many of these owner-operators are successful, some fail to cover expenses and eventually go out of business. Owner-operators should have good business sense as well as truck-driving experience. Courses in accounting, business, and business mathematics are helpful, and knowledge of truck mechanics can enable owner-operators to perform their own routine maintenance and minor repairs. Some trucking companies engage in franchising, providing drivers with the means to purchase a truck while also lining up loads for them to haul.
Unskilled employees may work as helpers, laborers, and material movers in their first jobs. They must be in good physical condition because the work often involves a great deal of physical labor and heavy lifting. They acquire skills on the job and can advance to more skilled jobs, such as industrial truck operator, truck driver, shipping and receiving clerk, or supervisor.
Office and administrative support jobs in the truck transportation and warehousing industry require familiarity with computers. Shipping and receiving clerks watch and learn the skills of the trade from more experienced workers while on the job. Stock clerks may advance to dispatcher positions after becoming familiar with company operations and procedures.
While some vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers learn the trade on the job, most employers prefer to hire graduates of programs in diesel mechanics offered by community and junior colleges or vocational and technical schools. Those with no training often start as helpers to mechanics, doing basic errands and chores, such as washing trucks or moving them to different locations. Experience as an automotive service technician is helpful because many of the skills relate to diesel technology. Experienced technicians may advance to shop supervisor or parts manager positions.
For managerial jobs in the truck transportation and warehousing industry, employers prefer persons with bachelors degrees in business, marketing, accounting, industrial relations, or economics. Good communication, problem-solving, and analytical skills are valuable in entry-level jobs. Since trucking and warehousing firms may rely heavily on computer technology to aid in the distribution of goods, knowledge of information systems also is helpful for advancement. Although most managers must learn logistics through extensive training on the job, several universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs in logistics. These programs emphasize the tools necessary to manage the distribution of goods and may be associated with the business departments of schools. Managers hired for entry-level positions sometimes advance to top-level managerial jobs.
Marketing and sales workers must be familiar with their firms products and services and have strong communication skills.
Growth in the truck transportation and warehousing industry reflects ups and downs in the national economy. Job opportunities are expected to be favorable for truck drivers and diesel service technicians.
Employment change. The number of wage and salary jobs in the truck transportation and warehousing industry is expected to grow 15 percent from 2006 through 2016, compared with projected growth of 11 percent for all industries combined. Growth will result in many job openings because the industry is so large. There also will be openings due to replacement needs for the large number of workers who will transfer to other industries or retire.
One of the main factors influencing the growth of the truck transportation and warehousing industry is the state of the national economy. Growth in the industry reflects ups and downs in the national economy. As the national economy grows and the production and sales of goods increases, there is an increase in the demand for transportation services to move goods from their producers to consumers. During economic downturns, the truck transportation and warehousing industry is one of the first to slow down as orders for goods and shipments decline. Competition in truck transportation is intense, both among trucking companies and, in some long-haul truckload segments, with the railroad industry. Nevertheless, trucking accounts for the bulk of freight transportation. Warehousing is expected to grow faster than the rest of the industry.
Additional employment growth will result from manufacturers willingness to concentrate more on their core competenciesproducing goodswhile outsourcing their distribution functions to trucking and warehousing companies which can perform these tasks with greater efficiency. As firms in other industries increasingly employ the industry's logistical services, such as inventory management and just-in-time shipping, many new jobs will be created. Also, as more consumers and businesses make purchases over the Internet, the expansion of electronic commerce will continue to increase demand for the transportation, logistical, and value-added services offered by the truck transportation and warehousing industry.
Job prospects. Opportunities for truck drivers are expected to be favorable. Many people leave the career because of the lengthy periods away from home, the long hours of driving, and the negative public image that drivers face. Employment opportunities should be better among truckload carriers than among less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers because many workers prefer the working conditions of LTL carriers. Stricter requirements for obtainingand keepinga commercial drivers license also make truck driving a less attractive career. New restrictions on who can obtain or renew their hazardous-material endorsement should increase opportunities for those able to pass the criminal background checks now required. Opportunities for diesel service technicians and mechanics also are expected to be favorable, especially for applicants with formal postsecondary training.
Growth in the truck transportation and warehousing industry should prompt an increase in office and administrative support employment. More dispatchers, stock clerks, and shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks will be needed to support expanded logistical services across the country. Opportunities for those with information technology skills should be excellent.
Industry earnings. In 2006, average earnings in the truck transportation portion of the industry were higher than the average for all private industry, as shown in table 2, while average weekly earnings in the warehousing portion were about the same as the average in all private industry. Earnings in selected occupations in truck transportation and warehousing appear in table 3.
Most employers compensate truck drivers with an hourly rate, a rate per mile, or a percentage of their loads revenue.
Benefits and union membership. Benefits, including performance-related bonuses, health insurance, and sick and vacation leave, are common in the trucking industry.
The major union in the truck transportation and warehousing industry is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. About 12 percent of trucking and warehousing workers are union members or are covered by union contracts, compared with approximately 13 percent of workers in all industries combined. Since union drivers tend to make more than nonunion drivers, some trucking companies use double breastingemploying union as well as nonunion operating divisions in an attempt to lower labor costs. Other companies use graduated pay scales and pay lower wages for new hires. Many give pay increases after predetermined periods to those with safe driving records. Some deal exclusively with owner-operators in order to offset the cost of owning and maintaining a fleet of vehicles.
For additional information about careers and training in the truck transportation and warehousing industry, write to any of the following organizations:
Detailed information on the following occupations can be found in the 200809 Occupational Outlook Handbook:
Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2008-09 Edition, Truck Transportation and Warehousing, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs021.htm (visited September 17, 2008 ).
Last Modified Date: December 18, 2007