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Why Trucking Can’t Deliver the Goods

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Why Trucking Can’t Deliver the Goods

The yearly turnover rate among long-haul truckers is 94 percent. And you wonder why you’re not getting your orders on time?

The Prospect,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

From Jimmy Hoffa to the New Deal, the history of trucking shows how regulation makes or breaks supply chains.

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


Attempting to explain a particularly broken part of the supply chain, American Prospect editor Harold Meyerson takes a deep dive into the history of trucking in the 20th century. From the politics of the New Deal to the 1960 tensions between Ralph Nader and the Teamsters, he conveys a fascinating history that reveals a lot you likely didn’t know. His compelling insights will intrigue you, particularly if you’re waiting for your new furniture to arrive – by truck, of course.


Since 1980, deregulation has eroded long-haul trucker wages and benefits.

The port truckers in Los Angeles – a critical part of the US supply chain – earn a median annual income of $28,000, with no health insurance or benefits. Trucking companies keep wages this low by misclassifying their entire labor force as independent contractors. Due to their freelance status, truckers must pay for their own gas, truck maintenance, rig insurance and repairs.

And, because of this, truckers leave their positions at an astronomical rate. Annual turnover in the industry hit 94% in 2019.  The American Trucking Association estimates that the 2021 shortfall of 80,000 truckers will double to 160,000 by 2030.

As recently as 1980, unions and regulations sustained truck driving as a well-paid blue-collar job.

Until 1980, long-haul truckers in the United States enjoyed high wages, benefits and reasonable hours under the 1935 Motor Carrier Act. A few factors created these positive working conditions. For example, the landmark New Deal National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) legislation enforced mandatory collective bargaining rights...

About the Author

Harold Meyerson is editor-at-large of The American Prospect. This article appears in its February 2022 special issue, “How We Broke the Supply Chain.”

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