MORTON: America Is 'Nothing Without Trucking'

Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

If there was one thing that Americans gained a greater appreciation of during the pandemic, it was recognizing the myriad hands that keep our society functioning. Amid the chaos, there was an outpouring of gratitude for our nation's truck drivers, who persevered through adversity to keep stores stocked and hospitals supplied. This acknowledgment was well-deserved, but the true meaning of "essential" extends far beyond the urgency of the moment. 


“Essential” extends into perpetuity. It means “indispensable,” and the statistics of the trucking industry bear this out:

  • 11.46 billion tons of goods are transported by trucks each year.

  • 80 percent of U.S. communities rely exclusively on trucks to receive their goods.

  • Nearly 14 million trucks are in operation.

  • 327.48 billion miles are traveled annually by trucks.

  • 8.4 million people were employed in trucking-related jobs in 2022, excluding the self-employed.

To highlight trucking’s indispensable role in our lives and our economy, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) launched a multi-year, nationwide image campaign. This initiative aims to educate policymakers and the public about the indispensable contributions of the trucking industry. Unveiled at the ATA's Mid-Year Management Session, the campaign includes an introductory video, a new website with shareable social media content, and calls for industry supporters to share their stories.

ATA President Chris Spear emphasized that trucking is a unifying industry that connects Americans from all backgrounds. "This time of year, as schools wind down and summer vacations dot the horizon, we’re here to remind America that in every season and at every moment of daily life, there’s nothing without trucking," Spear said. 

"In an election year when it can feel our country is more polarized than ever, trucking is an incomparable industry that connects Americans of every background in ways that are literal, essential, and personal. Our footprint is omnipresent, our reach is inescapable, and this campaign will show why trucking is the true beating heart of this nation."


Chief Operating Officer Sarah Rajtik explained that the campaign aims to be more direct with policymakers about the critical functions of the trucking industry. 

"Essentially, we felt it was time to be very direct with the policymakers about what trucking really does. The tireless work of this industry instills a quiet confidence in every American that we can effortlessly get the products and goods we need precisely when we need them. We will spotlight the millions of individuals who make trucking safer, innovative, efficient, and more environmentally responsible — from the drivers behind the wheel to the techs on the shop floor to the dispatchers, safety directors, and fleet managers who all play an indispensable role in keeping our economy moving."

Despite the essential role of trucking, the industry faces significant challenges from new regulations. One such regulation is the recent EPA rule on greenhouse gas emissions for heavy-duty vehicles, which mandates that by 2032, approximately 30 percent of heavy-duty vocational trucks and 40 percent of regional day cabs must be zero-emission vehicles.

The rule’s goals are unachievable. Zero-emission technology isn’t at a level to meet the demands of the rule. Charging infrastructure is anemic throughout the country and would be necessary across highways, cities, and rural communities – to speak nothing of the excessive demand that would dwarf power grid capacity. As ATA’s Spear said:


"Given the wide range of operations required of our industry to keep the economy running, a successful emission regulation must be technology-neutral and cannot be one-size-fits-all. Any regulation that fails to account for the operational realities of trucking will set the industry and America’s supply chain up for failure."

This is the kind of misguided rule that threatens the entire trucking industry and, therefore, America’s truckers. 

Another significant challenge comes from the Department of Labor's rule regarding independent contractors. Many truck drivers, traditionally classified as independent contractors, may find it challenging to maintain this status under the new rule, given factors such as investment in equipment and the use of specialized skills. This change could jeopardize fleet health and safety and potentially put truckers out of their jobs.

Rules like these seem to contradict the current administration’s 2021 public announcement, which showed an understanding of the trucking industry's challenges and offered solutions to address driver shortages and other issues. In addition, the industry is governed by numerous well-crafted and necessary regulations from state and federal governments, primarily focused on safety. 

However, beyond safety, it is crucial for Congress and regulators to recognize that America is indeed nothing without trucking. They should stop creating obstacles for these hard-working Americans and recommit to their 2021 plan to support the industry.


In an interview with Jill Snyder, a 40-year veteran of the transportation industry and the Compliance and Safety Director at Zonar Systems, a provider of fleet health and safety solutions, Snyder reinforces this point.

"When was the last time you saw a train at your grocery store? America literally is nothing without trucking. Truckers not only work hard to deliver their loads on time but also safely. They must inspect their vehicles before and after every trip, keep them maintained and in good working order, keep an eye out for cargo theft, find parking at rest stops that are often at capacity, and sometimes spend days away from family. Without these individuals, and the fleets and businesses that employ them, America would literally be standing still."

Truckers are the lifeline of our nation, ensuring that goods and products reach their destinations efficiently and reliably. The recognition of their essential role, brought into sharp focus during the pandemic, should not fade with time. It is a constant reminder of their enduring contribution to society. As the trucking industry faces new challenges, particularly from regulatory changes, it is crucial to advocate for realistic and diverse technological solutions that support the industry's varied needs. “Nothing Without Trucking” aims to highlight these realities and ensure that the vital contributions of truck drivers and the broader trucking industry are recognized and supported by policymakers and the public alike. By understanding and addressing the complexities and operational realities of trucking, we can continue to support an industry that is truly the beating heart of our nation.


Robert Morton is a media, financial, and policy analyst whose research expertise includes Hollywood, the credit markets, and COVID-19 data.


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