When you drive on freeways and highways, you see semi-trucks all the time. You probably see them so often that you may think nothing of it. But did you know that the economy relies so heavily on the trucking industry that you could confidently call truckers the backbone of America?
Trucking drives the economy by allowing companies to ship goods and services from coast to coast. Consumers have access to the goods they need, and companies can expand their businesses, leading to more locations, more jobs, and still more goods. Thanks to the trucking industry, local and nationwide economies can boom and flourish.
How Truckers Changed Our Country
Since the late 19th century, trucking has changed the shape of business in America. Originally, companies and consumers could only transport goods by train and horse-drawn carriage, which severely limited the speed and reach of shipping. Some train companies would even charge unfair fright rates when companies tried to ship goods across the country.
People needed a cost-effective, flexible, far-reaching alternative.
The Early 20th Century
With the invention of the automobile, companies and consumers could travel to more places at reasonable speeds. Manufacturers recognized the shipping and hauling potential of the automobile, so they slowly adapted their vehicles into the pickup trucks and semi-trucks we know today.
Before WWI, trucks could only travel at 15 mph. But the war accelerated the development of this technology, leading to inflated tires and a diesel engine, which gave trucks greater speed and power. By 1920, a fleet of over a million trucks helped companies (and military entities) ship goods all over the country.
The Mid-20th Century
Before the trucking industry took off, the country didn’t have any interstates. Sure, you could take highways and different roads to other states, but there weren’t any major interstate highways. You did not have the convenience of taking I-80 from San Francisco to Detroit.
In 1941, a committee commissioned by President Roosevelt drafted the first plans for a series of interstate highways. This highways would boost the trucking industry and improve shipping rates (and the standard of living) all around the country. Companies could not only ship goods at an affordable price, but they could ship goods quickly, allowing them to ship refrigerated foods.
The Late 20th Century
The late 20th century saw the rise of trucker culture and the use of CB radios. CB radios allowed truck drivers to warn other drivers of impending dangers like landslides, traffic jams, toll roads, and more. This enabled drivers to avoid these delays and find other routes instead, ensuring that their freights would arrive on time.
Today, the trucking industry still plays a vital role in our economy. It has had to overcome speed bumps like rising fuel prices and emissions regulations, but it still continues to serve companies and consumers all around the country, bringing them the goods and services they desire.
By the Numbers: How Trucking Continues to Serve Our Country
Truckers provide a lot of important services:
- They take raw goods from local supplies and transport them to manufacturers.
- They take finished goods from manufacturers to retailers or to ports, where the goods will travel by sea or air to other destinations around the globe. This boost the worldwide economy.
- They also transport goods directly from retailers to consumers in some cases.
But trucking also serves our country in other ways in addition to shipping:
- It provides millions of unionized and non-unionized people with jobs. The industry also works to treat its drivers well—a single strike could make a huge dent in our economy.
- The industry earns over $650 billion every year, which means it earns more than ¾ of the revenue for the entire commercial transportation industry. It circulates a lot of revenue through our economy.
- Truckers travel more than 47,000 miles and carry over 12.9 trillion tons of freight every year. The specialized goods in your grocery store or department store may have travelled thousands of miles to reach you, and you never would have seen them at all without the efforts of a dedicated driver.
- The trucking industry also has a lot of political clout, so it has the potential to improve road safety. Members of the trucking industry work with legal experts to establish standards like lower speed limits and required resting time. These standards not only protect truck drivers, but the drivers around them, leading to fewer injuries and deaths.
Without the trucking industry, the economy would fall apart. Most businesses would completely fail because they wouldn’t have access to raw materials or finished goods. Your household would suffer as well because you wouldn’t have access to the fresh foods you need—especially during the winter when trucks bring fruits and vegetables from warmer climates.
So if you’re a truck driver, pat yourself on the back. You provide a very important service to this country. And if you know any truck drivers, make sure you thank them for all their hard work. Our country wouldn’t be the same without their dedicated efforts.