Taken by a Truck Driver

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That figure, more so than the national average, is an accurate picture of what a trucker can expect to earn. Great, so we know the number of dollars the average trucker from each state makes—so what?

What does this really tell us about why truckers make the kind of money that they do? Is the pay enough?


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To understand the level of pay given to truck drivers for their services, and in order to assess whether or not such pay is just, it is important to analyze the economic conditions surrounding the industry—not just the numeric salary that the average trucker earns. Economically speaking, there are two conditions surrounding the trucking industry that should, in theory, drive driver and owner-operator wages up; the infamous trucking shortage and the grueling nature of the job.

In researching the trucking shortage or trucking pay, you may have found some contradictory articles online—how can it be that an industry with nearly 50, vacant positions can also be the most commonly occupied profession in 29 U. There are roughly 3. By these figures, about one in every one-hundred Americans is a trucker. So how, throughout all of the figures of growth and opportunity for trucking in the U.

Simply put, the rate of growth of the trucking industry is vastly outpaced by the demand for land transportation of goods.

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That amounts to The rising demand for truckers is unfortunately coupled by a rapidly aging truck driver population. Very soon, the trucking industry will be shrinking in size while the economic demand for their services will rise sharply.

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The key concept behind these facts and figures is that there is a sizable demand for labor as truck drivers, and that demand is going to grow far larger in the next couple of decades. Another economic factor that should influence the wages of truck drivers is the strenuous, lonely nature of the job. We hardly need to tell you how challenging it is to be a truck driver, particularly a long-haul driver.

It is a job that is at once thankless yet essential to the daily life of the average American. Truck driving makes it difficult to have a social life, it is incomparably lonely and its sedentary nature leads to severe health risks.

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Take coal mining, for example. Hunt , for instance, a reputable trucking company, and a disparity is apparent. Considering that the average trucker only lives to age 61 , largely in thanks to the nature of the work, it would seem as if truck drivers should be entitled to wage differentials similar to coal miners and other dangerous professions.

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After comparing the economic situation in which the trucking industry finds itself and the real wage that truckers make in each state, it is up to you to decide whether or not they are fairly compensated. Many would say that no, the trucking profession does not pay substantially enough to bear the downsides of the work. It is no surprise that there is a trucking shortage, really—why would millennials and young workers sign up for such a job?

It leads to low life expectancy and a lonely life on the road. The pay may be proving insufficient for young workers, despite the high demand for new truckers. In not too long, these jobs may be a thing of the past. The White House released a report in December predicting that 1. Though the White House did not specify over what time period this replacement would take place, some of the technology that will automate truck driving is already in use. In , Daimler received permission to test a self-driving truck, the Freightliner Inspiration, on Nevada roads.

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  • David Alexander, an analyst with Navigant Research, anticipates that most truck companies will gradually introduce automated driving technology in the next five to 10 years. New jobs will emerge as a result. But they will essentially be in a different field—technology.

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    Autonomous trucks use sensors and a navigation system to drive on the road. They brake independently and use radars and cameras to navigate around other vehicles. Alexander, of Navigant, says that automated trucks will still need people in these trucks, at least at first. Trucking companies are also experimenting with something called platooning, which is when vehicles use automated driving technology to drive closer to each other than they would with human operators, saving fuel costs and reducing emissions.

    The trucks talk to each other, slowing down when the lead truck slows down, speeding up when the lead one speeds up, without needing to read brake lights or other signs humans might use. Eventually, one driver in this group of trucks could operate the whole platoon, Alexander said.

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    This driver would need to be more skilled than the drivers who currently operate one truck at a time. It creates new jobs as well. Often, the jobs that disappear are low-paid, repetitive work and the new jobs are better, at least as measured by compensation. But the problem is that those new jobs are not ones that those low-skilled workers can easily fill, and those people are now out of luck. This, in turn, exacerbates inequality, said James Bessen, a lecturer at the Boston University School of Law who studies innovation.

    In the s, the profession provided good, stable, unionized, blue-collar jobs. But in the s, the federal government began deregulating the industry, according to Michael Belzer, an expert in the trucking industry and a professor at Wayne State University. Deregulation led to deunionization, wages fell, and a crop of new companies emerged that paid workers less and expected more out of them. As the good trucking jobs disappeared, companies needed to replace the experienced drivers who left the industry or found jobs with niche firms that treated them well, Viscelli said.