Industry Outlook

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there will be employment opportunities in the trucking industry for trained and skilled workers in the coming years. However, growth depends on the general economy. If orders and shipments slow down during a recession, trucking suffers. There is strong competition in the industry, both among trucking companies and with the railroad industry. Some trucking companies are expanding their businesses to include logistical services, such as inventory management and just-in-time shipping.

All areas of the trucking industry were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which began in late 2019. Early in the pandemic, the industry was disrupted by transportation and travel restrictions, as well as business lockdowns. Many trucking companies adjusted trucking operations and workers' schedules to comply with social distancing requirements and prevent the spread of the virus. The research group IBISWorld predicted a 12.4 percent decline in revenue for the local freight trucking industry and a 13.6 percent decline for the long-distance freight trucking industry in the U.S. in 2020, due to the drop in demand for industry services. The trucking industry overall is expected to rebound post pandemic, due to the accelerated distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 and bolstered economy. As consumer confidence grows, there will be a rise in industrial and retail activity, which will increase the demand for local freight trucking services. Growth in this sector will be hampered, however, by competition from other freight transportation modes and in-house trucking operations. Long-distance freight trucking in the U.S. is expected to have good growth through 2025, due to increased retail spending and rising trade volumes, which will increase shipments to and from U.S. ports that require trucking services.

In late 2020, the U.S. local freight trucking industry was valued at $42 billion, with 233,785 businesses employing 388,577 people. The U.S. long-distance freight trucking industry was valued at $181 billion, composed of 513,836 businesses and total employment of more than 1.19 million people.

An ongoing challenge in the trucking industry is the threat of terrorism. In response, trucking companies have been forced to tighten security and make adjustments. According to a report by American Trucker, an industry publication, as a result of incidents involving bombs exploding in large crowds, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, in April 2013, and shipping poisons to elected officials, the trucking industry "must not let down its guard against terrorism, be it domestic or international. … The objective is to reduce or eliminate the potential that one of your trucks could be used as a weapon of mass destruction." Trucks have been identified both as potential weapons, for use as truck bombs, and as targets, such as tanker trucks and trucks transporting hazardous materials such as gasoline. This has led to greater background checks for employees and stricter monitoring of trucks, which can cause delays and incur extra costs. The report noted, however, that despite concerns of terrorists using a truck in an attack, and repeated threats since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there have been no incidents in the United States of an 18-wheeler truck being used in an attack.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the employment outlook is good for truckers. Jobs for tractor-trailer drivers are expected to grow by 5 percent through 2028, with opportunities for qualified candidates strong due to the difficulty in locating skilled drivers. The Department of Labor predicts more than 99,700 new jobs for tractor-trailer and heavy truck drivers sector will be added through 2028. However, slower than average employment growth is expected for drivers of light and delivery trucks over the same period.

Employment in the office and administrative support side of the trucking business is  expected to be good. There is considerable turnover in the field and beginners are able to find many openings. Competition will remain strong for the more desirable jobs, such as those with large companies or the easiest routes.

There are thousands of trucking companies operating in the United States, including for-hire, private fleets, and owner-operator firms. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that as of May 2019, there were 892,078 for-hire carriers, 772,011 private careers, and 84,930 other interstate motor carriers in the U.S. The American Trucking Associations reported that trucking dominated freight transportation in tonnage shipped in 2018, accounting for more than 71 percent of the total. The increase of Internet retail sales should increase business for parcel and package carriers, such as the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service, and Federal Express.

Current and ongoing issues that the trucking industry must face include highway transportation safety, regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The trucking industry must comply with environmental regulations, such as diesel engine emissions rules and water quality standards at maintenance facilities. The Department of Transportation governs work hours and other conditions, and the trucking industry is also working with labor and safety groups to improve hours-of-service rules for drivers. It is promoting 24-hour work-rest schedules, with a maximum of 14 hours of on-duty time followed by a minimum of 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.