by Tim O’Neill
Trucks are an essential mode of transportation for moving valued goods throughout Minnesota and the United States. With 481 firms supplying 2,197 jobs, Truck Transportation is also a major and necessary part of the economy in Northwest Minnesota. The growing economy will increase the need for Truck Transportation, and the aging workforce will result in a need for new drivers as current drivers retire or leave the occupation.
- General Freight Trucking includes businesses that handle a wide variety of commodities, which are transported in a container or van trailer for local pickup, local sorting and terminal operations, line-haul, destination sorting and terminal operations, and local delivery.
- Specialized Trucking includes business that transport freight which because of size, weight, shape, or other characteristics requires specialized equipment, like tankers or refrigerated trailers.
Despite the recent economic recession, the Truck Transportation industry has witnessed healthy growth during the past decade, especially in Northwest Minnesota. Between 2002 and 2012, the region added more than 200 jobs for 11 percent growth. Of these added jobs more than 180 were in General Freight Trucking. This constitutes 13 percent growth over the past decade in Northwest Minnesota, which more than doubles the 6 percent growth witnessed in Minnesota overall.
Along with the recent growth in Truck Transportation, the demand for truckers in Northwest Minnesota is projected to increase significantly through 2020. This projected increase in demand can be attributed to both the recent economic recovery and an aging workforce. On one hand, while the overall economy of Northwest Minnesota has grown by only 1.3 percent since 2010, certain sectors that rely on trucking have grown much more significantly. For example, Natural Resources and Mining is up nearly 16 percent, Professional and Business Services is up nearly 10 percent, Manufacturing is up nearly 8 percent, and Construction is up more than 3 percent. Projections for such sectors show significant growth as well. With more jobs and increased economic activity, the demand for shipping and trucking follows suit.
Filling the Demand
All signs point to an increasing need for truck drivers in Northwest Minnesota. Unfortunately, the demand for drivers is not being currently met. Factors contributing to this phenomenon include the type of work and compensation. Truck drivers many times sacrifice days if not weeks on the road, often living from the truck itself. This poses serious complications for those individuals with spouses and children. Not surprisingly, more than 85 percent of truck drivers within Northwest Minnesota are male. On top of this, wages for truck drivers have lagged behind inflation. Accounting for inflation, the median hourly wage for heavy-truck drivers in Minnesota fell from $18.22 to $17.00 between 2007 and 2012.
Despite these barriers, however, the outlook for truck driving in Northwest Minnesota remains strong. As long as the economy continues to grow, the demand for trucking will grow as well. For students and job seekers interested in truck driving, a high school diploma or equivalent is required. Once short-term on-the-job training is complete, drivers will be able to hit the road with a career that shows much promise for the future.