Freight transportation, one of the world’s largest industries, is trucking right along. All modes of transport (air, water, rail, pipeline and trucking) comprise an industry that’s worth more than $1 trillion, according to Plunkett Research.
Trucking makes up nearly 80 percent of this total. Each year, the trucking industry hauls more than 10 billion tons of freight, accounting for more than two-thirds of the United States’ total freight tonnage.
Despite rising as a multibillion-dollar industry (trucking generated more than $700 billion in revenue in 2017, according to the American Trucking Associations, or ATA), the industry struggles with a growing problem: a declining number of qualified drivers. As experienced workers retire and the demand for freight transportation increases, the trucking industry faces a staggering shortage.
The industry is already short 50,000 truck drivers, which is impacting businesses and consumers alike. Over the next decade, the ATA estimates the industry will need 898,000 more drivers to keep up with growth and demand.
In a tight labor market, trucking companies can use promotional products to steer their recruitment and retention efforts and land the drivers they desperately need. Trucking companies can also use promotional items to get more mileage out of their marketing campaigns.
Freight transportation remains crucial to the global economy and supply chain. Promotional products can help trucking companies overcome obstacles and stay on a path of profitability.
In a robust economy, good workers are often hard to come by. The transportation market especially feels the pinch as the demand for freight transportation continues to rise. As ecommerce expands, the need for truck drivers will continue to tick upwards.
To attract more drivers in an increasingly competitive economy, many trucking companies are boosting pay and benefits, with some offering attractive signing bonuses. The median salary for truckload drivers climbed to more than $53,000 in 2018, according to a survey from the ATA, marking a $7,000 increase from the ATA’s last survey in 2013. Private fleet drivers experienced an 18 percent pay increase to earn more than $86,000 annually.
On The Road Again
- Approximately 7.7 million people work in trucking-related jobs
- The trucking industry relies on 3.5 million truck drivers and more than 3.6 million heavy-duty trucks to move 10.5 billion tons of freight each year
- Professional truck drivers log more than 400 billion miles each year
- The average truck driver is 50 years old
- Only 6.2 percent of truckers are women
- Minorities account for 40.6 percent of all truck drivers
Sources: American Trucking Associations; Trucking.org
Who’s Behind The Wheel
Here’s a closer look at driver demographics:
Owner-operators own and operate their own trucking businesses. These individuals:
- Have been tin the trucking business for an average of 26 years
- Have lived in the same area for more than a decade
- 90 percent are registered voters
- Became an owner-operator at an average age of 37
- 36 percent have served in the military
- Remain educated, with nearly half (45 percent) receiving some level of college education
Professional employee drivers work directly for a carrier. These individuals:
- 95 percent are male
- 80 percent own their own home
- 40 percent exercise regularly
- 64 percent get paid by the mile and average $0.36-$0.40 per mile
- 54 percent spend more than 200 nights away from home each year
- 35 percent have served in the military
- 75 percent own a firearm
Source: Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
A look at the trucking companies with the world's largest fleets:
Truck stops sell more coffee than convenience stores
- The average commercial truck driver spends more than $0.004 per mile on coffee, amounting to more than $600 per year per industry driver
Truck drivers can grab a mint from the domed tin with truck-shaped mints for a cool pick-me-up on a long haul. A full-color digital imprint beautifully showcases a logo or opt for a one-color spot imprint to keep your company name front and center.
Chocolate Inn / PPAI 111662 / www.chocolateinn.com
The Urban Peak® 30-ounce Altair vacuum tumbler maintains optimal drinking temperatures due to a copper-lined, vacuum-insulated liner. A spill-proof, flip-top design lets truckers roll down the highway without sloshing their beverage.
Starline USA / PPAI 112719 / www.starline.com
Hand out the MaxGlide® Click chrome pen at career fairs or distribute them to new drivers signing paperwork. Sleek in style, this push retractable ballpoint pen will become a fast favorite with its comfortable grip and blue ink.
Hub Pen Company / PPAI 110772 / www.hubpen.com
When drivers are on the road, they’ll appreciate the USB car charger with LED light to recharge their mobile device. A convenient LED light illuminates your logo and makes it easy to see in a dim truck cab. Choose from lime green, red, royal blue and white.
Beacon Promotions, Inc. / PPAI 113702 www.beaconpromotions.com
Truckers can reach for the Kirkas COB magnetic emergency light in tricky situations. This lightweight, aluminum flashlight includes a strip light and emergency flashing LED red light. Features include a magnetic base and loop ring for easy attachment.
Logomark, Inc. / PPAI 110898 / www.logomark.com
The plastic notepad with pen is handy for jotting notes or route updates during a trip. A ballpoint pen is conveniently stored to keep the pad closed and a logo stands out as a full-color imprint on the journal’s plastic cover.
Goldstar / PPAI 114031 / www.goldstarpens.com
Made from super-soft fleece and sized 60 x 70 inches, the oversized plush throw provides cozy comfort when drivers catch some shut-eye in their truck. Choose from black, white, gray and navy, and embroider your logo for a much-appreciated gift.
Leed’s / PPAI 112361 / www.leedsworld.com
When working on a program to incentivize truck drivers and promote safety, Marsha Londe of Tango Partners was asked to find a ruler that could fit into the driver’s book that logs details.
“Management wanted to reward qualified drivers with a work-related item,” Londe says. “I couldn’t imagine drivers [wanting to receive] a ruler, so I visited a terminal.” Londe climbed into a truck cab to see the space and what kind of items drivers carry on their trip. After getting a firsthand look at a driver’s space, Londe presented a cooler, duffel bag and thermal cup, among other items.
Londe was up against several distributor companies presenting to a committee comprised of drivers and staff. Although she overshot the proposed per-piece budget, the committee chose her recommendations. “Because the monthly gifts were useful, in corporate colors and displayed their artwork or logo, drivers wanted to qualify,” Londe says. “The first year of the safety program brought such excellent results that the program lasted almost 20 years.”
Getting In On The Ground Floor
Promotional products companies can win in the transportation industry by rolling out campaigns to help trucking fleets and carriers attract and retain qualified workers. Truckers enjoy a positive job outlook with more open positions than workers, but they often face many challenges on the job. Promotional products companies should consider these challenges when pitching campaigns. Successful promotions should aim to:
Make the drive more comfortable. Most truck drivers are expected to cover 125,000 miles each year, which breaks down to about 2,500 miles a week or 500 miles a day. Many drivers often sleep in their truck. Considering how much ground drivers must cover and how much time they spend on the job, look for promotional items that will make their drive more enjoyable.
Consider the driver’s lifestyle. Many drivers haul cargo upwards of 300 days a year, leaving them little time to spend at home. They’re often on the road weeks at a time, earning a day off for each week spent driving. Take this lifestyle into account when developing promotions.
Go beyond the big rig. Don’t restrict your promotions to the confines of the truck’s cab. While many drivers enjoy the comfort of ergonomically designed seats to help them stay alert, focused and comfortable, look for ways to bring joy to their day beyond their time behind the wheel.
Top Trucking Trends to Watch
Truck platooning: Companies might turn to truck platooning, which connects two or more trucks in a group through connectivity technology and adaptive cruise control, to solve driver shortages.
Electric trucks: By 2025, the global electric truck market is projected to account for 10-15 percent of truck sales.
Autonomous driving: Facing a significant driver shortage, the trucking industry is forced to speed its development of driverless commercial vehicles. Some studies predict autonomous trucks will be commercialized within the next decade.
Audrey Sellers is a Dallas, Texas-area writer and former associate editor of PPB.