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Decline in truck transportation jobs 3rd biggest in last decade

Outside of big drop when pandemic began, February’s decrease largest going back to 2013

Truck transportation jobs took a big drop in February. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The job losses suffered by the truck transportation sector in February have almost no precedent in the last 10 years, except for the massive drop in April 2020 and a similar drop almost 10 years ago.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported Friday showed the truck transportation sector saw a decline of 8,500 jobs in February, coming in at 1,599,900 on a seasonally adjusted basis. 

In the downloadable data provided by BLS in its report, a review of every month going back to January 2013 turns up no other month in that period, except for the April 2020 bloodbath, in which the number of jobs in truck transportation jobs fell by that much. Outside of April 2020, the only bigger one-month decline was 9,000 jobs in March 2013.

The decline in April 2020 was 84,500 jobs. 

Before the February report, there had only been three months since the pandemic began in which truck transportation jobs declined, with the largest one-month drop coming in March of last year, when jobs declined 3,100 jobs. Other than those three months, it had all been gains.

The decline from January also was accompanied by a revision in the original figure reported last month for January. The revised January total of 1,608,400 jobs is a downward adjustment of 6,300 jobs from what BLS had initially reported. 

The end result is that on a seasonally adjusted basis, the industry was told in early February that in January, it had 1,614,700 jobs in the truck transportation sector. And now, with the adjustment of the January numbers and the drop in February, it is looking at a job total that is 14,800 less than that.

Non-seasonally adjusted truck transportation jobs also saw a downward move, dropping 10,600 jobs to 1,575,800 jobs in February..  

David Spencer, the vice president of market intelligence at Arrive Logistics, said the drop in jobs is coming alongside signals that trucking companies are getting from the market.

The jobs decline “is driven by the results carriers are seeing in this year’s current RFP season,” Spencer said in an email to FreightWaves. “With shippers lowering volume expectations, carriers will be providing smaller commitments, which means the same way that spot rates are starting to bottom out, we’re going to see jobs continue to decrease over the next few months.”

He said there were other indicators of the weakness in the market that are ongoing or should be watched, such as used equipment prices declining and a slide in contract rates.

“While many carriers were holding out hoping for a recovery, I believe now we are seeing carriers adjusting to the new conditions with more confidence,” Spencer said. 

Some other data points in this month’s BLS report:

  • Warehouse jobs are also on the decline. On a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs in that sector in February stood at 1,929,400 jobs, down from 1,934,900 jobs a month earlier. There are two ways of looking at the warehouse data: Jobs are down 30,900 from the recent high level of June 2022, but they are up about 335,000 jobs from two years ago.
  • Rail jobs looked like they were on the upswing, and maybe they are with just a one-month blip. But pressure to increase the ranks of workers has only grown with the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment in early February. Yet jobs dropped 200 in the rail sector to 148,900. They still are above the 145,800 recorded in February 2022, and the recent increases have seen the jobs total break out of a range that appeared stuck between about 145,000 and 147,000 for several years. 

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  1. Veronika Bozhilova

    A lot of carriers are also accepting very low-priced freight out of necessity and aiding in spot rates going down. It is a vicious cycle that we must try to break while also fighting for survival. Support to all carriers and truckers, things will get better.

  2. Jimbo

    An old trucker here.. Slavery didn’t go away. Enter the semi driver. Up to 70+ hours a week. Poor sleep quality. Unpaid hours. Arrogant management. (And much more)
    Getting out of trucking may save your health & marriage. 🙂

  3. Ygnacio Diaz

    A lot of this company specific those who run local don’t hired driver’s who have clean VMR but felony records like my self all thought my record are 10 years all so I’m pretty much force to stick around owner’s operator that run very small companies with no benefits what so ever that’s very sad

  4. Chris

    The article is emphasizing the loss of jobs for drivers, not the lack of drivers or drivers quitting for whatever reason. There is a direct link from manufacturing that drives this. If he demand for products declines so does the need to make it and have it delivered. This is a good indication of where the economy is headed. If I was a driver I would be looking for a carrier that is either food based, paper based or other necessity based products. There will always be a need for people to eat and a need for paper products and goods. Hold on tight and hope for a turn around!

  5. Anthony

    TRUCK DRIVING IS CHEAP LABOR. LOW PAY, LONG HOURS,ALL FOR THAT LITTLE PAY. Most of these companies want you to unload and load your trailer while trying to get as many deliveries as possible for there own personal greed. Companies want drivers to put their CDL’s and career’s at risk to break rules for the greed of the company. Companies want drivers to be ready after 10 hour reset and not only be ready but they’re interrupting the drivers 10 hour reset by calling the driver. I worked for a company and put in a 70 hour week and was paid $500 based off of there pay scale. I could go on about being a truck driver. I’ve giving up on it. I make just as much being a manager at McDonald’s and able to be home with my family.

  6. I seen

    Third party law enforcement security try’s to arrest every customer that walks in the door at truck stops. They Hustle the cashier to mess up on the drivers pilot app and report you stole a coffee so the Foreign people doing illegal police work can make an arrest. I seen one truck stop Hustler claiming to be Homeland and international and security. While trying to hack into banking systems in the restaurant using Wi-Fi

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.