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The impact of the trucking industry in Tennessee.

Trucking is defined as "the process or business of transporting goods on trucks." This country is dependent upon the trucking industry-without trucks, America stops.

How dependent are we? In Tennessee, some 70 percent of our communities'only source of commercial transportation is the truck. Whether hauling raw materials or loaves of bread, trucking gets it there.

According to U.S. Department of Commerce figures, 29 percent of all Tennessee workers are employed in the manufacturing sector. The same source reports that 70.5 percent of the total tonnage of manufactured goods transported to and from Tennessee locations each year is moved by truck. A survey of Tennessee's 10 largest manufacturers demonstrates the point. Of all modes of transportation, only trucking is used daily by every one of the firms surveyed. While all use other modes to varying degrees, only trucking is used universally.

The trucking industry is estimated to employ some 150,000 persons or 11 percent of the work force in Tennessee. The diversity of trucking jobs ranges from driving to dispatching, from safety inspections to sales. The annual payroll is estimated to exceed $2.8 billion. United States Department of Commerce annual wage figures indicate that trucking industry wage averages are 34 percent higher than the Tennessee composite average and well above wage averages for other industries such as manufacturing and construction.

Registration data indicate that the majority of trucks are used for non-commercial purposes, with some 297,400, or roughly one fourth, used in commerce. The commercial trucks used in farming and construction account for 161,000 of the total. Of all commercial vehicles, only 69,000 exceed 10,000 lbs., which is the size of a one-ton pickup. While Tennessee's economy was growing rapidly between 1982 and 1987, the number of large trucks grew by only 2,000 (69,000 total).The actual growth occurred in grain and dump-body trucks, with declines reflected in the more traditional commercial van, tank, and flatbed truck classes.

In addition to sales, income, business, personal property, and other taxes, the trucking industry in Tennessee pays over $10 million each week in state and federal highway taxes. When considered in total, trucks, including those used for non-commercial purposes, comprise less than 20 percent of all the vehicles on the road yet pay 52 percent of the taxes.

According to 1988 United States Department of transportation figures, large trucks pay almost 38.9 percent of state and federal highway taxes yet total only 1.4 percent of registered vehicles.

A comparison of the average highway user fees paid by the medium-sized passenger car and the five-axle tractor semi-trailer shows that trucks pay over 48 times more user taxes than do automobiles. Such differentials appropriately reflect the commercial benefits of trucks in regard to the relatively small percentage of these vehicles that use our highway system for commercial purposes.


The trucking industry on the federal level under the umbrella of the American Trucking Association has led the fight to improve both highway and commercial trucking safety. Enactment of the Commercial Drivers License by the Congress and subsequent action by the respective state legislative bodies will assure that a driver of any single or combination (truck and trailer) vehicle weighing over 26,000 lbs., transporting 15 people including the driver, or transporting hazardous materials will have only one license.

Tennessee was one of the first states to enact such legislation in 1988 and implemented the program beginning in June 1989. What does that mean? By April 1, 1992, the practice of licensure in multiple states will have ended. Drivers with serious driving violations, including convictions for drug and alcohol abuse, will no longer be able to operate those vehicles previously described due to a nationwide computer system each state will use to verify driving records. The result is safer highways.

Thanks to the effort spearheaded by the industry, mandatory drug testing is now a reality in the world of commercial trucking. Any operator of a commercial vehicle weighing more than 26,000 lbs., transporting 15 persons including the driver, or transporting hazardous materials is subject to drug testing. While mandatory testing is conducted for pre-employment, for probable cause, and on a periodic basis, purely random and post-accident testing can not be implemented on a mandatory basis, according to a federal court in California. Yet, many trucking firms have had such programs in place for years. Many more are voluntarily adding these components to their existing U.S. Department of transportation mandatory programs.

The results of the testing indicated that less than 5 percent of commercial operators tested positive for banned substances. Those figures are substantially lower than most previous estimates. Yet, the industry goal is to ensure that no driver of a commercial vehicle is chemically impaired. Random testing will enhance achievement of that goal.

The results of these programs, increased emphasis on safety by trucking firms, and the application of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations has resulted in a marked decline in the number of highway deaths in Tennessee attributable to commercial vehicles. Fatal accidents involving commercial trucks have dropped annually from 152 in 1987 to 97 in 1990, a 36 percent reduction.

Will the changes continue that have rocked the industry since deregulation on the federal level in 1980? Technological advances and emphasis on increased efficiency certainly will. The mergers, consolidations, buyouts, and bankruptcies that characterized the decade will continue to decline. But it's still too early to tell what impact the current recession will have on the industry.

The issue of intrastate regulation of rates and entry into the market will continue to receive close scrutiny, especially on the federal level.The consideration of federal preemption of intrastate trucking regulation will be debated in Congress this year while it enacts legislation that will continue funding of the federal highway program.

Will trucking continue to grow in Tennessee and the Mid-South? In Tennessee alone the Department of Economic and Community Development forecasts that an average of more than 1,100 new jobs will be created in the industry each year for the balance of the century.

Tennessee is blessed by being served by three north-south and two east-west interstate highways. The proximity to the nation's population and our geographic location will continue to ensure that the region will reap increasing benefits in its role as a distribution center, and, consequently, trucking will grow in prominence. The escalation of intermodal transportation and our excellent water, rail, and air resources are vital linkages for increasing international trade.

Why has trucking become the mode of choice in commercial transportation? The answer is rooted in the industry's attributes of affordability, dependability, flexibility, and accessibility.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gant, Ron E.
Publication:Business Perspectives
Date:Mar 22, 1991
Previous Article:Financing health care costs - who pays?
Next Article:An analysis of the changing nature of the deregulated trucking industry.

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