According to a recent report by University Of Minnesota’s Minnesota Population Center’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, a career as a truck driver is among the most popular nationwide, and has been since the late 1970s. Using data from the Current Population Survey, the project, referred to as IPUMS-CPS, is dedicated to integrating and disseminating data, with goals to collect and preserve data and documentation.
After the report was published, National Public Radio’s program Planet Money looked over the data and wondered, what’s with all the truck drivers? There are a few reasons, they discovered.
The first reason is that, as an occupation, driving a truck has not fallen prey to the biggest trends affecting U.S. jobs: globalization and automation. While driving may eventually become automated, it still requires a human being behind the wheel to get from point A to point B. But it’s also a question of when a truck driver isn’t a truck driver: In other words, for the sake of brevity, the government lumps all truck drivers into one category. So a truck driver could be a delivery driver for UPS or a grocery delivery service, rather than a long-haul or intermodal truck driver.
If, after considering these facts, you still question how there could be so many truck drivers, especially in light of the current driver shortage, you’re not alone. Yahoo Finance points out several questionable conclusions in the NPR report. NPR’s analysis eliminates several categories, namely “salespersons not elsewhere classified” which includes retail workers; it also neglects to consider part-time workers. If part-time workers had been included, schoolteachers become one of the most common jobs in many states; overall, retail salespeople and cashiers were actually the two largest occupations in the U.S. in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Despite arriving at questionable conclusions, the report does benefit the industry by casting a favorable light on the driving trucks as a viable and popular career choice. And with demand for truck drivers forecast to nearly double over the next decade—from 1.44 million on the road in 2014 to 2.76 million in 2022, according to BLS—every bit of good PR helps.