As a truck driver looking for work, you don’t want to see this headline. You want to hear that the trucking industry is booming with new job opportunities. Yet we read that in January 2017 the trucking industry reportedly lost 1,400 jobs according to the US Department of Labor. However, at the same time the overall payrolls for all industries increased by 227,000. Furthermore, the jobs seeing gains include warehousing and storage jobs. How does this relate to the big picture of trucking? Should you be worried about losing your trucking job? Before you start playing Chicken Little, let’s break down these figures for a clearer understanding of what’s happening here.
All Signs Point to Go
If we take these figures and that’s all for an analysis, it would indicate that trucking as a whole is in a slump. It would show that we are losing truck drivers to other occupations, or that trucking companies are unable to retain their work force. But fortunately this is not the case as the situation isn’t as black and white as that. The end of 2016 saw a record freight demand for for-hire freight at its highest in a decade. We also saw that truck drivers were getting the biggest pay raises among all blue collar jobs in November 2016. So how can we be losing trucking jobs when all signs point to a positive growth in trucking?
The demand for truckers to fill the seats of semis is real. We need truck drivers, qualified, experienced and hardworking, who are willing to fill the jobs left behind by the baby boomers in retirement. Trucking companies like Atlas Van Lines, DHT Inc, and Hogan Transports want to hire truckers to fill their truck seats. But at the same time, these companies understand the value of hiring truck drivers who are not a liability or safety hazard. Freight needs to arrive at its destination, but not at the risk of fatalities or driver fatigue in the process. If we are to keep up with the growing pace of the economy, we have to find a way to attract qualified drivers.
As such, we can expect to see an increase in trucking jobs because of the lack of qualified or ready-to-work OTR truckers in the job pool. More people are going to college or taking an entrepreneurial route for work when they graduate high school, rather than waiting until they are 21 to become a long haul trucker. At the same rate, truck driving is a stressful and busy occupation. For those younger truckers, finding work on regional trucking jobs will help them build up their experience so they are prepared for a full-on career as an over the road truck driver earning the big bucks.
Yes, there may be a slump in the number of trucking jobs available, but this will come and go as the economy fluctuates and our employee pool evolves. We are in a great time of transition but economically, in the trucking industry as a whole, and as a nation. As more regulations are cut loose and trade agreements are negotiated, we are certain to see indicators of how the economy and industries are doing at a set time. We can only ride the tide as it rolls in with these changes. Truckers are used to doing that. Now we are just doing this as an industry, waiting to see what economic changes are over the horizon.
Warehousing for Future Freight
So back to that data. As the numbers show the US has lost 1,400 jobs in a single month in the trucking alone, while picking up jobs in warehousing. If we are increasing work in warehousing and storage, this is a strong indicator that freight is catching up the pace. During the recession we experienced several stagnant periods of growth, along with a port crisis in which truckers went on strike. When this perfect storm in shipping happened companies were forced to use up their inventories, which created a whole new slew of crises. This increased hiring in warehousing and storage could still be somewhat of a layover from this troubling past.
As more warehousing options are needed we know that companies are building up their inventories. Storing goods here helps to keep costs down as supply is filling up. Companies only do this when there is a demand, or the potential for demand, in product sales, which is a positive sign of growth for our economy. As you can imagine, when the economy is doing well, so is the trucking industry. While we are currently looking at filling inventories, at some point the tides will turn and trucking will have to pick up the pace on distribution services. For now, we are running on the supply lines of companies hoping to stock up during the good times.
The Bottom Line
By seeing the loss of 1,400 jobs, we have to look at the bigger picture. Sure, the trucking industry is losing some jobs. In the scheme of things, though, these jobs are simply being transferred to a different stage in the supply chain. We aren’t losing those production roles altogether, which is what we really want to focus on here. Rather than worrying about having a trucking job, now is the perfect time to look for the best paying trucking jobs out there. Take advantage of the massive sign-on bonuses and tuition reimbursement perks that are being used to attract new truck drivers to jobs. Do like companies are doing with their inventory, and stock up on the bonuses and benefits while these are available.