Anywhere you go anywhere in the world you will find truck drivers delivering goods. Roads and highways are filled with trucks of all shapes sizes. Tractor trailers of all configurations are everywhere on the roads.
If you are driving a car you may be annoyed by all of these trucks. Or if you are an environmentalist you may be concerned by the fuel consumption of these behemoths.
But the reality is that these truck drivers are the backbone of our societies and our economies. They deliver the goods that we need to live the lives that we enjoy. Without them the economy would stop and life as we know it would not be the same.
Truck drivers are truly the unsung heroes of the Supply Chain!
Truck Drivers and Their Impact!
It is very true that without truck drivers the world economy would come to a screeching halt. In the U.S. over 70% of the goods being transported are being moved by the trucking industry.
The U.S. has 3.5 million truck drivers. And by extension a total of almost 9 million people are employed in the trucking industry in the U.S. That’s staggering. Over 7% of all U.S. jobs (that’s 1 in 14) are in trucking. If you excluded government jobs that percentage gets even higher.
Truck drivers in the U.S. travel over 430 billion miles per year.
They move over 10 billion tons of goods per year. And those trucks consume 54 billion gallons of fuel. Amazing! With population growth, greater goods consumption, and increased demands from e-commerce and online shopping these numbers will continue to grow.
The operation of any Supply Chain has at its core the movement of goods from one point to another. There is a ton of energy spent on planning, forecasting and Supply Chain design. But too often the movement of goods is relegated to the task of calling a trucking company to pick up and deliver goods with no understanding or appreciation for the people who drive those trucks. Without those truck drivers the greatest plans will falter.
Truck Driving is Tough!
And these are tough jobs. There are a lot of reality TV shows on trucking which provide a small viewing window into these lifestyles. Shows like “Ice Road Truckers” for instance depict an environment that very few people would have the skill, courage or determination to take on.
Being on the road for that amount of time and for those distances, for our benefit, is also done at great sacrifice by those truck drivers. They are away from their homes and families for extended periods of time.
There are also 500 thousand accidents in the U.S. per year. That is a huge number but it is actually 1/3 of the percentage of accidents just involving cars. And only 16% of those accidents are actually caused by truck drivers. But this a reality of the job that truck drivers take head on for our benefit.
The following infographic originally published by Nexttruckonline.com is a great depiction of the Life of a Truck Driver.
Trucking Industry Issues
There is a current, ongoing and increasing driver shortage. As the truck driver workforce ages and more of them retire, there are fewer new recruits to offset the rising demand for trucking. They work long hours, spend a long time away from home, and don’t get paid what they feel they deserve.
Increased regulatory requirements are making the jobs even more difficult. And technology may be a disruptive force in trucking with the advent of autonomous vehicles.
Let’s give thanks to those who choose to be Truck Drivers. Every Supply Chain is reliant on the movement of goods yet we often take for granted those that make this transportation possible. We should be very thankful for all that truck drivers do for us.
My Undergraduate thesis was about optimizing vehicle routing systems for the trucking industry. The focus of the thesis was on reducing travel times, travel distances, and improving efficiencies. In retrospect I now think of the potential extended benefits that would also make the jobs of truck drivers a little easier.