The State of Trucking Employment: 2021 and Beyond

A trucker navigates this Utah highway in his big rig

The trucking industry is one of the biggest industries in the United States. In 2019, the trucking industry generated $791.7 billion in revenue and moved 11.84 billion tons of freight. From consumer goods, factory supplies to heavy products, and hazardous materials, trucks move all. 

Whether you want to start a career in the trucking industry or you are already established in the industry, it’s important to keep up-to-date on trucking news and the state of trucking employment in 2021. 

This article will discuss truck driver shortages, new innovations in the industry, and the future of truck driving employment. 

Truck Driver Shortages

Since 2005, truck driver shortages in the United States have been big trucking news. The truck driver shortage is a lack of drivers currently working and employed in the trucking industry. 

During the 2008 recession, there was technically no shortage of drivers, but only because the industry slowed down significantly. As the economy recovered in 2011, the truck driver shortage returned. 

Trucking is vital for moving goods across the country. In fact, experts predict that it would take only three days for grocery stores to run out of food if long haul truckers stopped working. It’s an important job!

However, in 2018, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimated a driver shortage of 60,000. This is a huge blow to the industry. But why is there a truck driver shortage?

Why is there A Truck Driver Shortage?

There are several reasons why there is a shortage of truck drivers in the United States today. Some reports discuss the fact that there is not a shortage of qualified drivers but that drivers are leaving the industry due to low pay and the difficult lifestyle of being on the road. 

Low Wages 

While truck drivers can make upwards of $100,000 a year, this is not the norm for most drivers. In 2018 the median annual salary of truck drivers was $43,680 ($21 per hour). The top 10% of truck drivers made more than $65,260 per year. Income is based on experience, CDL licensing, hours worked, the state a driver works in, and the company a driver works for. 

As the cost of living has increased, truck driver wages have stayed the same. This is causing many drivers to leave the industry. 

Level of Risk

Long hours on the road, bad weather, load shifts, and faulty equipment all contribute to risk in a career as a truck driver. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that:

“In 2012, the rates of fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses of truck drivers of both heavy and tractor-trailer and smaller delivery trucks were higher than the average of all private industry occupations.”

Luckily, the number of injuries and fatalities has decreased. There are many ways you can minimize your risk as a truck driver, including taking safety certifications and prioritizing self-care and rest over driving long hours. 


Living on the road for long periods can be difficult. It takes drivers away from friends and family and can create unhealthy sleeping and eating habits. Living in your truck can be difficult, and some drivers feel cramped and unhappy. 

However, the good news is that with technology, there are many ways truck drivers can keep in touch with their loved ones on the road. From video chats to online games, it’s easier than ever to communicate with the people you care about from anywhere in the world. 

And there are other benefits to the trucking lifestyle. Depending on what kind of trucking you do, you have control over your driving schedule. You don’t have to wear a uniform to work, and you have the freedom of exploring the country without being trapped behind a desk five days a week. 

And many truckers share their experiences online and relay tips on how to eat right, exercise, and live their best lives while working a trucking career. 

Unfair Treatment of Drivers 

There are a number of ways some companies don’t treat drivers fairly. Most commonly, truckers have reported being scammed out of hours worked by their companies. This includes not paying a sign-on bonus that was promised or underpaying drivers who are paid by the mile. 

Negative experiences in the industry have caused a lot of truckers to find new career paths. However, sharing information on these negative experiences and companies can help drivers stay in the trucking industry and avoid scams and cheap companies. 

Trucking blogs and online forums outline the best and worst companies to work for. Making it easier for drivers to find the right company for them. 

Trucking Employment: The Good News

There are many reasons drivers leave the trucking industry. From low pay to a difficult lifestyle, truck driver shortages are a topic of discussion when it comes to trucking employment. 

Luckily, there have been many positive changes in the trucking industry that are leading to better pay and safer and more enjoyable working conditions. 

Trucking Technology

Technological advancements in the trucking industry are creating a safer working environment for truckers. GPS and touch-screen devices help truckers plan the best, direct routes and avoid traffic. While other new installations can alert drivers and companies to engine malfunctions, tire pressure, and even trailer issues. 

These new technologies are creating a safer and more comfortable working environment for truckers. Malfunctions and breakdowns are noticed much more quickly, and it’s easier for a trucker to communicate with their company if there is an issue. 

The Wall Street Journal reports on some first-hand experiences from truckers and how technology has made their working life much easier.

“Chip Hill, a 51-year-old Schneider driver, said he no longer walks the lot for the better part of an hour to find an empty trailer. Instead, the company has an app for drivers called Schneider Compass that directs him to the empties.”

New technologies in the trucking industry are making work easier and safer for drivers. 

Autonomous Trucks

Autonomous trucks are part of the future of trucking employment. The idea of autonomous trucks has some drivers worried that their jobs are at stake. Drivers worry that autonomous trucks mean that truck driving positions for humans will become obsolete. 

But this isn’t the case at all. Neil Abt, senior editor at Fleet Owner, discusses how autonomous trucks can actually make truck drivers safer and create a better working environment for them. 

“Autonomous technologies could be the key… This does not mean completely driverless, I cannot stress this enough. It is about making the job of driving easier, safer and maybe even more fun… I can’t predict the exact business model, but I am certain that the whole trucking experience will change such that it will be appealing to young truck drivers. They’ll be attracted to the technology, and because the truck has so many safety features, they won’t need as much experience… I also think that it will open the market up to more women.”

Autonomous trucks also have better hydraulic features, which means less heavy lifting and manual labor for truckers. 

Pay Increases

As the demand for truck drivers increases, companies are beginning to offer better pay and better working conditions to encourage more people to join the trucking industry. 

In October of 2020, Schneider National in Green Bay, Wisconsin, announced they are raising pay for all team drivers. Drivers with one or more years of experience will have a pay increase of 4 cents per mile, while drivers with less than one year of experience will have a pay increase of 2 cents per mile. 

And other companies are following suit to attract more drivers, both experienced and new, to the industry. Crete Carrier and Schaffer trucking also announced a pay increase for all drivers in October of 2020. 

So for experienced drivers and new drivers, you can expect better wages going forward from many large companies in the industry. 

Job Availability 

Due to the shortage of drivers, it’s becoming easier for new drivers to break into the industry. With proper licensing and training, new drivers can quickly get their foot in the door. 

And the more training you have as a driver, the more career opportunities you’ll have, and the more profitable your career will be. While some higher-risk jobs pay better, like ice road trucking and hazmat hauling, there are job opportunities for truckers that pay well and are low risk. These include luxury car hauling, tanker hauling, oversized load-hauling, and team driving. 

The State of Trucking Employment Today

Trucking can be a hazardous and challenging job, but the industry is improving. With a truck driver shortage, many companies are working to provide better wages and better working conditions. 

Whether you’re just thinking about joining the trucking industry, or you’ve been a long haul trucker for decades, salary, technology, and automation are all making positive changes in 2021 and the future. 

As a trucker, you know your most important asset is your truck. And it’s essential you have a reliable repair shop you can depend on for regular maintenance and repairs as well as breakdowns and mechanical issues. 

Founded in 1971, Kelly’s Truck knows the ins and outs of truck repairs and the trucking industry. With in-house repairs, roadside assistance, and transparent prices, Kelly’s Truck is here to help. Contact us today at 1-800-793-9282, stop by our San Leandro location, or request a quote online

Kelly’s Truck will get your moneymaker back on the road as soon as possible.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest