So, what makes these eight questions about trucking so important and why should you care? I mean, you’re not in the trucking industry, right? Here’s your answer. You should care because whether you work in transportation or not, trucking affects you. Every. Single. Day. So, what are the answers to 8 important questions about trucking in America?

Answers to 8 Important Questions About Trucking in America

1. How many truck drivers are there in America?

There are more than 3.5 million professional truck drives in the USA. About one out of every 15 workers in America works in the trucking industry or a related business, according to the ATA, “… 7.4 million people employed throughout the economy in jobs that relate to trucking activity, excluding the self-employed. 3.5 million truck drivers were employed in 2016” — ATA (American Trucking Association) Trends, Reports, and Statistics

2. How has trucking changed with the times?

Trucking is a high-tech Industry. Because, truck drivers don’t only drive trucks they operate vehicles with automation, keep electronic logs, communicate via internet, and much more. “Amid a sea of gadgets, drones, robots, and virtual reality demos, commercial trucking carved out a significant niche for itself here at the Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest technology event. Electric powered and automated trucks provided attendees with glimpses at the potential future of trucking and highlighted the industry as a hotbed for innovation.” — Electric, Automated Trucks Offer Glimpse of Industry’s Future at CES

3. How dangerous is driving a truck professionally?

It’s the most dangerous job in America. “In 2015, 852 truck drivers lost their lives while working, making the truck driver the most dangerous job in the USA. So, remember to give truck drivers space and don’t tailgate.” — Trucker Path Trucking Industry Statistics

4. How Many Trucks are registered in the USA?

“33.8 million trucks across all classes, 1 through 8 (i.e., light-, medium-, and heavy-trucks.)” — OOIDA (Owner Operator Independent Driver Association) Trucking Facts

5. What percentage of cargo is shipped by truck?

“In fact, a staggering 80% of all cargo in America is transported by the trucking industry, four times as much as air (8%), pipeline (6%), rail (4%), and water (2%) combined.” — Business Insider The staggering statistics behind America’s trucking industry.  So, think about this, 80 percent of our food, medicine, gasoline, and money is shipped by truck.

6. How many miles does the trucking industry total per year?

“Large trucks (single-unit and tractor-trailers) traveled nearly 279,131 million miles in 2014 compared to 275,018 a year earlier.” — Forbes Six Stats That Reveal The State Of The U.S. Trucking Industry. Do you know what this means? It means the trucking industry pays a lot of taxes used to run our country.

7. How important is the transportation industry to the economy?

“The transportation sector is an integral part of the U.S. economy. It employs millions of people and comprises 8.9 percent of the Nation’s economic activity as measured by gross domestic product (GDP).” — Bureau of Transportation Industry Statistics Freight Facts & Figures 2017

8. What’s the future of trucking? 

I saved the biggest question for last. What is the future of trucking in America? It certainly includes more automation, alternate energy sources, and possibly self-driving vehicles. However , there may be a step before self-driving that fits the trucking industry better than driverless vehicles. Think about this, if there’s no driver who works directly with clients at their operation and manages the load up to and including unloading the trailer?  Platooning, a lead truck and driver with a connected  platoon is already here.

So, is platooning trailers the future of trucking? “Volvo Trucks North America and parcel carrier FedEx Corp. demonstrated on June 27 a platooning system with three twin trucks on a stretch of Route 540 in North Carolina, one of 10 test sites for driverless cars designated in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Transportation.” — Volvo and FedEx team for live platooning. So, is this the future? It just may be.

Wait What?

Okay, I wrote about platooning three years ago (A Train of Trailers in the Center Lane), but I didn’t know it was happening in the states. Wow.

What is Platooning?

What’s platooning? It’s connecting two or more trucks electronically so that the lead truck driver drives all connected trucks. So, yes, a train of trucks.

How Was It Accomplished?

In the Volvo/FedEx experiment, the vehicles used CACC (Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control), “Using a combination of sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle communication, cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC) takes cruise control to the next level, enabling vehicles to adjust their speed to the preceding vehicle in their lane. The CACC system can also respond more quickly to speed changes by the preceding vehicle and other vehicles farther ahead that are beyond the line of sight.” Federal Highway Administration Department of transportation Advanced Research.

How Far Did the Trucks Travel?

The trucks traveled in and out of traffic for 18 miles maintaining a speed of 62 MPH while keeping a 1.5-second separation. The platoon consisted of three tractors each pulling two 28-foot trailers. Volvo professional drivers drove the trucks.

This is nothing new for Volvo. They first introduced platooning in Europe nine years ago.

Why Platoon?

50,000 reasons

Why are Volvo, FedEx, and others pursuing platooning? To begin with, I can give 50,000 reasons. Depending on which report you read, the trucking industry is between 50,000 and 100,000 drivers short of its needs. For the first time in years, there are empty-seaters – trucks sitting due to the lack of availability of drivers.

Fuel savings

“Results demonstrated a wide range of fuel savings — with the lead vehicle saving up to 10% at the closest separation distance of 4 meters, the middle vehicle saving up to 17% at 4 meters, and the trailing vehicle saving up to 13% at 10 – 20 meters.” NREL Truck Platooning Evaluations

Safety

Platooning can improve safety, “It is possible, even likely, that platooning could improve safety statistics. Putting the controls into the hands of one highly qualified driver/technician could make an impact; giving that technician the latest in technology and automation — even better.” — A Train of Trailers in the Center Lane.  If you’d like to read further on platooning safety, I recommend this article,  Truck Platooning: Safety First.

Platooning could potentially lesson traffic congestion by placing trailers closer together than is currently deemed safe.

When it becomes widely spread, it will be a more cost-effective system for logistics organizations then what is currently used. Platooning will save time and money. Because of the sheer size of the trucking industry, anything that’s good for trucking is good for the economy. It’s good for all of us.

Welcome to the Future

So, in June 2018, three tractors pulled six trailers on the highways of North Carolina for 18 miles. Folks, we’ve just witnessed one aspect of the future of trucking.

Trucking is Linked to Us All

There’s more, but I hope you get the idea – trucking impacts life in America.  And because it reaches us all, it can have a positive or dire effect. So, that’s why it’s so important, no it’s more than important because it’s everyone’s responsibility to support trucking in America. So, what can you do? The next time you take trucking for granted think again. When you hear the industry being slammed don’t stand for it. Support legislation  that helps the trucking industry. Which, includes infrastructure maintenance and repair. And share answers to 8 important questions about trucking in America. If you want to learn more, Trucking Moves America Forward is a good place to start.

“The mission of Trucking Moves America Forward is to establish a long-term industry-wide movement to create a positive image for the industry, to ensure that policymakers and the public understand the importance of the trucking industry to the nation’s economy, and to build the political and grassroots support necessary to strengthen and grow the industry in the future.” — Trucking Moves America Forward Mission Statement 

So, if you liked this you might also enjoy.

Life in America Without Trucking.

Here’s What the Future of Trucking Could Look Like.

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/ANpT2l1TQ0I