The Trucking Industry Explained in Three Graphs

At the end of 2022, 3.7 million CDL interstate drivers were on US highways, making up 1.8% of the entire working-age population

But the trucking industry isn’t just an immensely important sector for employment. Eighty percent of US communities depend on trucks to safely deliver food, medicine, and other essentials.

So let’s take a look at some of the trends over the last few years in this fascinating industry. 

Active Interstate Freight Motor Carriers 2018 – 2022

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From 2018 to 2020, the total number of active interstate freight motor carriers rose by an average of 4.45% year over year. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing lockdowns and chaos in supply chains, there was a surge in demand for freight transportation. And new trucking companies answered the call.

From 2020 to 2021, the total number of active interstate carriers rose by a staggering 20.11%. Over the next year, the number grew by a lower but still substantial 7.75%. 

FMCSA-Regulated Carriers by Number of Power Units, 2018-2022

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Here we can see what happened to the number of carriers in the same years depending on how many trucks they have. 

Interestingly, every grouping of carriers experienced growth in total population each year except carriers with over 100 power units. The total number in this group decreased by 15.19% from 2020 to 2021.

In the same time frame, operations with just one truck had the biggest increase at 28.35%

FMCSA-Regulated CDL and Non-CDL Drivers, 2018-2022

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The number of drivers regulated by the FMCSA during the same five years tells a different story.

The largest change was from 2020 to 2021 when CDL drivers increased by 10.68%. While significant, the change was much lower than the growth we saw in the number of active motor carriers of 20.11%. 

The difference can be explained by the previous graph, which showed the biggest growth in motor carriers with one power unit, i.e. owner-operators. Truck drivers saw the immense opportunity in the historically high rates and so decided to go into business for themselves instead of taking company driver positions.

Want to learn more about the cycles of the trucking industry? Check out our article: Is it a good time to start a trucking business? 

Or maybe you’re interested in knowing what it takes to become an owner-operator yourself. Learn more in this article: How To Start An Owner-Operator Trucking Business In 10 Steps