Trucks at Work

Trucking job growth: A bellwether for better economic times?

Recent transportation industry job growth data analyzed by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) – a division of – indicates that trucking in particular is generating quite a few openings for big rig operators at a rate not seen since the Great Recession struck back in 2008.

And while that might be at odds with the increasing shortage of truck drivers discussed in this space yesterday, the increase in job openings is being viewed as a very positive indicator for the U.S. economy; a sign that the need to move more freight through the supply chain is increasing.

EMSI’s data indicates that the number of available truck driver jobs increased at a rate of 6.6% from 2010 to 2013, with expectations that the industry will add more than 15,000 new truck driver positions in 2014.

Ryan Hunt, a spokesperson for CareerBuilder, told me by phone that 6.6% rate is “very strong” when compared to other occupations.

Indeed, it’s two and half percentage points higher than the rate of job creation for the U.S. economy as a whole and is within shouting distance of the 8.2% rate of growth for truck driver positions between the boom years of 2003 and 2006.

“Truck drivers are tied into the supply chain, so when we see growth in those types of transportation jobs, that’s often a positive bellwether for the broader economy,” he explained to me. “The [job growth] rate is not quite back to where it was before the ‘Great Recession’ but it’s a great indicator as to where the economy is headed.”

[Just for fun, here’s a clip of a high school student in New Zealand learning about what it takes to be a truck driver.]

EMSI’s data indicates that there are currently more than 1.8 million tractor-trailer and heavy truck drivers in the U.S, including more than 987,000 other workers employed in the trucking industry.

Employment in the transportation industry as a whole is also up significantly, rising 6.1% from 2010 to 2013, which is two percentage points above the national job growth rate of 4.1% over the same timeframe, noted Rob Morris, director of –’s dedicated site for transportation workers.

“Career opportunities in transportation are growing across a range of occupation types and salary levels,” he said in a statement. “The health of the transportation industry is a bellwether for the rest of the economy, as it is integral to the supply chains of many industrial and consumer sectors.”

Here are a few other transportation-related occupations witnessing robust growth, according to EMSI:

  • Logisticians: up 3% between 2013 and 2014 with a median hourly wage of $34.99
  • Bus Drivers: up 3% with a median hourly wage of $13.53
  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics: up 2% with a median hourly wage of $16.34

In general, CareerBuilder’s Hunt told me, the rate of job growth in transportation-related jobs – particular for trucking – is really strong and is expected to stay that way for a while.

However, the real trick will be whether folks actually sign on to be big rig operators and stick with it as a career. That will be the salient factor in all of this.

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