Trucks at Work

Trucking may be going to the dogs … and cats … and fish …

Pet ownership in the U.S. is climbing, according to a new survey conducted by the Harris Poll, with more than three in five Americans (62%) saying they own at least one pet in their household.

But from trucking’s perspective, the response to that number might very well be, “what took you so long?” That’s because, as of two years ago, over 60% of truck drivers said they were pet owners, with 40% of them taking their pets on the road with them.

Barry Starr (at left), a longtime driver with Powell Transportation, knows well the value of pet ownership on the road as his faithful canine companion Scrappy rides shotgun wherever the freight takes them.

“He is great company; he keeps me laughing a lot,” Starr told me from the road. “He is also a great source of exercise [as] walking him and playing with him will definitely keep me active. But the number one thing is he’s an awesome alarm system.”

Stephanie Klang, a 25-year veteran long-haul driver who’s logged 3 million safe driving miles with Con-way Truckload, is also a big believer in the good karma pets can provide on the road – though in her case she’s accompanied by cats.

Klang (seen at right) told me her feline companions’ help her “de-stress” while traveling the highway; something she believes is critical to staying healthy in the truck driving profession.

That may be one of the factors driving up pet ownership across the U.S., according to the Harris Poll survey noted back at the start of this post; an online poll of 2,205 U.S. adults back in May that discovered 1,323 have at least one pet in their household.

And if the results of the Harris Poll are to be believed, fleets better be ready to accept more requests for pet ownership from younger drivers, as pet ownership highest among the two youngest generations the firm sampled: some 65% among Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) and a whopping 71% among members of “Generation X,” those born between the late 1960s and 1980s.

Here are some other interesting findings from the Harris Poll’s pet survey:

  • Over 95% of pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family, which is up 4 points from 2012 and 7 points since the question was first asked in 2007.
  • Americans with kids in the household are more likely to have at least one pet than those without (73% vs. 57%) – and kids in those households may themselves be more likely to be the pet owners of the future, as Americans who had a pet when they were growing up are more likely than those who didn't to have one now (66% vs. 41%).
  • Republicans may be more likely than either Democrats or Independents to have a dog house in their backyard as they're more likely to have at least one pet in the household (68% Republican, 59% Democratic, 60% Independent).
  • Dogs come out on top for now, with 71% of pet owners saying they have at least one dog; half (49%) have cats, while one in ten have fish (11%) and less than one in ten pet owners have a bird (8%) or some other type of pet (9%).
  • Interestingly, dogs may have a leg up in "crossover" pet ownership as well: half (49%) of cat owners also say they have a dog, while only a third (34%) of dog owners also have a cat.
  • The majority of dog owners have just one pooch in the house (61%), and the average number of dogs in these households is 1.6. Cat owners are somewhat less likely to limit their home to just one kitty (53%) with the average number of cats under those roofs is 2.0.
  • Cat owners are more likely than dog owners to let their pets sleep on the bed (81% vs. 73%).
  • Women are more likely than men to say they at least occasionally buy their pets holiday presents (70% vs. 58%), while men are more likely to at least occasionally bring their pet to work (16% vs. 9%).
  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say they at least occasionally buy their pets birthday presents (54% vs. 40% Gen X, 42% Baby Boomers and 27% Matures) and dress their pets in some type of clothing (31% vs. 19%, 14% and 13%).
  • Of course, pet owners also show their love through their wallets, reporting that they spend nearly a combined $1,200 per year on food/treats ($476.60), medical costs ($425.70), pet sitting/boarding ($128.50), toys ($63.70) and other equipment ($97.40).
  • Women spend more on these items and services for their pets than men (nearly $1,400 vs. less than $1,000).

Now, if only truck drivers could teach their pets how to operate their big rigs …

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