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The Trucking Industry

(From American Trucking Trends 2004. Alexandria, VA: American Trucking Associations,Inc.)

 As the economy improves from the sluggishness of recent years, it is important to remember that trucking plays a pivotal role in the recovery. Nearly every good consumed in the U.S. is put on a truck at some point. As a result, the trucking industry hauled 68.9% of all the tons of freight transported in the United States in 2003, equating to 9.1 billion tons. The trucking industry was an astounding $610 billion industry in 2003, representing 86.9% of the nation?s freight bill[1]. Put another way, on average, trucking collected 86.9 cents of every dollar spent on freight transportation. Both the tonnage and revenue figures included for-hire (truckload and less-than-truckload) and private carriage.

 Trucks transport the ?tangible? goods portion of the economy, which is nearly everything consumed by households and businesses. However, trucking also plays a critical role in keeping costs down throughout the business community. Specifically, for businesses that produce high-value, low-weight goods, inventory carrying costs can be considerable. But, many of these producers now count on trucks to deliver products efficiently and timely so that they can keep stocks as low as possible. In fact, inventory-to-sales ratios continue to fall, indicating that motor carriers and their customers are working well together in this area, saving the economy billions of dollars in costs.

 Trucking is the vital transportation link not only for domestic goods, but also international products. Imported goods from overseas have to be moved multiple times from port to final destination. But, perhaps even more important, is the role that trucks play in the enormous amount of trade that flows over our northern and southern borders.  Canada and Mexico are now the U.S.?s largest trading partners. In 2003, trucks hauled nearly 67% of the goods (in terms of value) between the U.S. and Canada and over 80% between the U.S. and Mexico. As the North American economies become more interrelated as well as global, trucking?s importance in international trade will only grow.

 In 2003, over 24 million trucks (all classes) hauled over 9 billion tons of freight. Of the more than 24 million trucks, 2.6 million were Class 8 vehicles[2]. Also, there were 4.9 million commercial trailers registered in 2003. 

 All trucks, (excluding vehicles used by the government and on farms, but including all weight classes) used for business purposes logged a total of 444 billion miles in 2003, which accounted for 15.6% of all motor vehicle miles and 37.6% of all truck miles. Class 8 trucks drove a total of 114 billion miles according to Martin Labbe Associates. That means that on average a Class 8 truck drove over 43,000 miles in 2003, although many long-haul Class 8 trucks travel in excess of 100,000 miles each year.

 In 2003, trucks (all classes) consumed nearly 50 billion gallons of fuel, including both diesel and gasoline.  Most heavy-duty trucks run on diesel fuel, which is hwy over 69% of all fuel burned by trucks is diesel fuel, equating to 34.6 billion gallons.

 Before the motor carrier industry was initially deregulated by the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, there were fewer than 20,000 interstate motor carriers in the U.S. By July 2004, there were more than 524,000 U.S. carriers on file with the U.S. Department of Transportation, including for-hire, private fleets, and owner-operators. While this is a significant amount of trucking companies, the vast majority of them are small businesses. Nearly 96% operate 20 or fewer trucks and more than 87% operate six trucks or less. As a consequence, the trucking industry is a highly fragmented industry, resulting in intense competition (both price and non-price competition) and low profit margins.

 The trucking industry is a major employer in the U.S. Across all industries, more than 8.6 million people were employed in trucking-related jobs in 2003. Over 3 million of these people were truck drivers.


[1] Both the tonnage and revenue statistics come from Freight Transportation Forecast. . . .2015, produced by Global Insight (USA), Inc. for ATA.  The Freight Transportation Forecast provides tonnage and revenue data for all other modes of freight transportation as well. Please visit www.truckline.com/store for more information.

[2] Class 8 trucks weight more than 33,000 pounds and are typically tractor-trailer combinations, although it does include straight trucks as well.



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