ABSTRACT

In contrast to the declining role, and employment, of blue-collar workers in many sectors of the economy, truck drivers continue to play a central role in their firms and the trucking industry. Despite technological and business innovation in the industry, a driver still is needed to move each load from the shipper to the consignee. Improved scheduling, larger trailers and real-time communication between drivers and dispatchers have improved driver productivity, but these improvements have been modest compared to those in other industries where automation and IT have replaced entirely some portion of the blue collar labor force. In part because of the slow pace of technological change in this industry, truck driving is now among the largest and fastest growing occupations in the United States. The number of drivers, three million employees and owner-operators, is only surpassed by the number employed as retail salespersons and cashiers. The 100 percent growth in the number of truck drivers from 1975 to 2000 is substantially higher than the 59 percent growth of the employed labor force. Truck driving is also distinctive in its exemption from many of the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Moreover, it is unique in its working conditions, particularly the long hours and time away from home required of many drivers, and the importance of the self-employed segment of the labor force. Finally, technologically driven skills upgrading has been minimal in this occupation over the last several decades. In contrast with many other blue-collar jobs, a driver from 1975 or even 1950 would quickly recognize and master the job of today's driver.