Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Truck Transportation in Oregon
by Dallas Fridley
Published Jan-22-2013

Oregon's truck transportation industry peaked in August 2006 with nearly 20,000 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, following four years of solid growth. The industry's seasonal peak typically arrives in the summer months and over the August 2002 to August 2006 period, covered employment rose by nearly 1,800 jobs or 9.9 percent. The industry bottomed out in 2010 with an annual average of 16,320 covered jobs, a drop of 16.5 percent from 2006, with 3,230 jobs cut. Job growth returned to truck transportation in 2011, with 770 jobs gained, pushing its annual average to about 17,100. Job growth slowed in 2012, with a 12-month gain of just 250 jobs, or 1.5 percent, through June.

Truck transportation payrolls also peaked in 2006, rising to $820 million. By 2009, payrolls had fallen to $671.3 million, a loss of $148.7 million or 18.1 percent. Payroll rebounded slightly in 2010, rising to $674.2 million, an increase of $2.9 million or 4.3 percent. Payroll growth accelerated in 2011, climbing to $711.6 million, a gain of $37.4 million or 5.5 percent.

Regional Results
On a regional basis, Portland and the surrounding area lost the most jobs, falling from 10,100 jobs in 2006 to 8,130 in 2010, for a loss of 1,980 jobs or 19.6 percent (Graph 1). The Oregon coast region experienced an even greater percentage loss, falling from 860 jobs in 2006 to 670 in 2010, a drop of 22.6 percent. The Willamette Valley region found itself in the same basic territory, with truck transportation employment falling by about 790 jobs, or 18.6 percent, to average 3,440. The Southern Oregon region fared a little better, with employment falling from 2,170 jobs in 2006 to 1,960 in 2010, for a loss of 210 or 9.6 percent. The Central Oregon/Columbia Gorge region trimmed its total by just 50 jobs to average 1,090 jobs in 2010, leaving a loss of just 4.4 percent. Eastern Oregon did more than recover from the recession; it also gained jobs, rising by 10, or 0.5 percent, to total 1,040 in 2010.

Oregon's truck transportation industry started adding back jobs in 2011, with Portland and the surrounding area rising by 310 jobs to narrow its loss since 2006 to 16.5 percent. The Oregon Coast moved in a similar fashion, rising by around 60 jobs in 2011 to leave a gap of 16.1 percent. The Willamette Valley made up slightly more ground; the region added 190 jobs while falling 14.1 percent shy of its 2006 average. Southern Oregon made considerable headway in 2011, adding 160 jobs while narrowing its loss since 2006 to just 2.4 percent. The Central Oregon/Columbia Gorge region rose by only 30 jobs in 2011, but its loss since 2006 narrowed to just 2.2 percent. Eastern Oregon continued to add jobs in 2011, rising by 40 and pushing its growth since 2006 to 4.4 percent.

Based on 2006 employment levels, the Portland and surrounding area comprised 52 percent of Oregon's truck transportation industry, with all other Oregon regions credited for the remaining 48 percent. Moving forward to 2011, Portland and the surrounding area's share fell to 49 percent, while all other Oregon regions combined rose to 51 percent.

Graph 1
Truck transportation employment by region 2001-2011
General Freight and Specialized Freight
Within truck transportation, the two primary industry sub-groups are general freight and specialized freight. General freight establishments handle a wide variety of commodities, generally palletized, and transported in a container or van trailer. The establishments found in specialized freight are primarily engaged in the transportation of freight which, because of size, weight, shape, or other inherent characteristics, requires specialized equipment, such as flatbeds, tankers, or refrigerated trailers.

General freight employed 11,430 in 2011, about 67 percent of the truck transportation total, while specialized freight provided 5,670 jobs or 33 percent. Looking back to 2006, general freight still needed to add an addition 1,890 jobs to fully recover, a difference of 14.2 percent. Specialized freight looked a little bit better, with an additional 550 jobs needed for a full recovery, a gap of 8.8 percent.

Portland and the surrounding area commanded the lion's share of general freight jobs with 7,390 or 55 percent of the state total in 2006 (Graph 2). By 2011, its general freight employment provided 6,120 jobs, 17.3 percent below the level in 2006, and its share of the state total slipped to 53 percent. Portland and the surrounding area has yet to recover all of its specialized freight jobs. The 2011 job count of 2,320 is 14.4 percent below the 2006 level, trimming the area's share of Oregon's total from 44 percent to 41 percent (Graph 3).

Outside Portland and the surrounding area, the 2011 results were much better, with general freight remaining 610 jobs shy of its 2006 peak, for a difference of 10.3 percent. Outside Portland, specialized freight sat 160 jobs short of its 2006 peak, leaving a gap of just 4.5 percent.

Graph 2
2011 general freight trucking employment by Oregon region
Graph 3
2011 specialized freight trucking employment by Oregon region
Freight Shipments and Origin
According to the Commodity Flow Survey produced by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, freight shipments originating in Oregon during 2007 were valued at $146.9 billion. Truck transportation alone accounted for $101.1 billion or about 69 percent of Oregon's 2007 freight shipments based on value, while moving close to 90 percent of its tonnage. Within truck transportation, shipments traveling less than 50 miles represented over 41 percent of the shipment value and more than 71 percent of the tonnage. On average, a truck shipment traveled 195 miles in 2007, with for-hire trucks traveling an average of 722 miles and private trucks an average of just 52 miles. For-hire truck shipments were valued at over $55 million in 2007, about 38 percent of Oregon's total, while private trucks moved $46 million or around 31 percent. Tonnage was evenly split, with for-hire trucks moving 40.4 percent of all outbound shipments and private trucks hauling 40.8 percent.

Freight shipment weight ranged from less than 50 pounds to more than 100,000 pounds - with loads weighing 10,000 to 49,999 pounds commanding $41.2 billion or nearly 41 percent of the value in 2007 and about 43 percent of the tonnage. Loads weighing 50,000 to 99,999 pounds reached $13.1 billion in 2007, and represented a disproportionate 41.5 percent of the tonnage.

Shipments originating in Oregon often remain within the state's borders, with nearly 75 percent of the tonnage or 137.8 million tons destined for Oregon. Shipment values also favored Oregon but not nearly to the same degree, with $63.3 billion or about 43 percent staying in state. Washington was the most likely out-of-state destination for Oregon freight, with nearly $22.5 billion heading north in 2007, or 15.3 percent of Oregon's $146.9 billion total. California ranked second, receiving $19.1 billion in shipments from Oregon, about 13 percent of the total. California-bound shipments represented a much smaller share of Oregon's tonnage, at 9.3 million tons or about 5 percent. Texas ($4.1 billion); Arizona ($2.6 billion); Idaho ($2.5 billion); Colorado ($2.4 billion); Illinois ($2.3 billion); and Florida ($2.2 billion) were also likely destinations for Oregon freight in 2007.

Freight shipments bound for Oregon in 2007 totaled $139.7 billion and weighed more than 190.7 million tons. Oregon shipments often originate in state, with over 45 percent of the value and around 72 percent of the tonnage flowing within its borders. Washington and California were the point of origin for a substantial share of Oregon bound freight shipments in 2007. Washington shipped over $20 billion in freight to Oregon, more than 14 percent of all inbound shipments, while its tonnage was over 12 percent, at 23.3 million tons. Shipments originating in California were valued at over $14 billion or about 10 percent of all inbound freight with 7.6 million tons moved. Other high ranking states based on 2007 inbound shipment value included these: Texas ($4.4 billion); Michigan ($3.2 billion); Illinois ($2.5 billion); Pennsylvania ($2.1 billion); and Idaho ($2 billion).

Freight Shipment Characteristics
Electronics and other electrical equipment, components and office equipment ranked first in 2007 with more than $21.2 billion in shipments originating in Oregon. While commanding 14.4 percent of Oregon's 2007 shipment value, this key group represented only 0.1 percent of the tonnage, weighing just 262,000 tons. Mixed freight ranked second in 2007 with a shipment value of $14.8 billion or 10.1 percent of Oregon's total. Mixed freight accounted for 2.7 percent of Oregon's tonnage in 2007, at just over 4.9 million tons. Wood products ranked third, with $11.1 billion in shipments (7.5%), while tonnage, at 22.3 million tons, commanded 12.5 percent and ranked first. Precision instruments and apparatus shipments ranked fourth in Oregon, with $8.4 billion transported. Other prepared foodstuffs, fats and oils ranked fifth, with $8.1 billion in shipment value.

Worker Characteristics
Truck transportation workers are predominantly white, with 94 percent of the industry's employment by race. Based on ethnicity, Hispanics comprised around 7 percent of truck transportation's total employment. Across all industries, Hispanics represented more than 9 percent of Oregon's total employment.

Truck transportation workers are heavily concentrated in the 45 to 64 age group, which represented nearly 55 percent of the industry's total employment in 2011. Across all industries, workers in these age groups represented a much smaller share, at just over 37 percent. Across all industries, the 25 to 34 age group represented around 23 percent of all workers, while the share in truck transportation was close to 14 percent (Graph 4).

The educational attainment of truck transportation workers in Oregon was typically high school or less. About 39 percent of the industry's workers completed no more than a high school diploma and nearly 13 percent did not complete high school - together the two groups comprised close to 52 percent of the industry's 2011 employment. Across all industries, the group with less than a high school education comprised around 11 percent of the state's jobs, while the high school group was close to 29 percent. Training beyond high school or an associate's degree represented about 34 percent of the employment in truck transportation, which was not too different from the profile for all industries, at 33 percent. Across all industries, more than one-quarter of workers, 26.8 percent, obtained a bachelor's degree or higher, while in truck transportation the share was less than 15 percent.

Monthly earnings in truck transportation averaged $3,571 in 2011, falling nearly $400 below the average for all industries. Educational attainment didn't have the same impact on wages in truck transportation, with monthly earnings in the less than high school group averaging $3,211 and earnings for workers in the bachelor's or higher group just $771 higher, at $3,981 per month. Across all industries, earnings for the bachelor's or higher group averaged $5,839, a premium of $1,857 per month over truck transportation. The contrast was even more skewed for new hires. Hires with less than a high school education were paid $2,034 per month across all industries, while new hires with a bachelor's degree or above started at $3,797, some $1,763 higher. Across all education levels, new hires in truck transportation earned $127 more per month than hires for all industries, but the difference between the top and bottom of the educational scale was just $216 per month.

Graph 4
Age characteristics of Oregon workers truck transp & all industries 2011
Truck transportation in Oregon peaked in 2006, and continued to lose employment through 2010. Employment levels began to pick up in 2011, but still have room to grow to reach the prior peak in most areas of the state. However, pre-recession employment levels may be an unrealistic expectation in the short term. The industry has a heavy concentration of older workers and its need for replacement workers will provide a steady stream of new openings, even in the absence of strong job growth. Oregon's improving economy will help to lift truck transportation, but a thriving economy for trading partners like California is also essential to a healthy and growing industry in Oregon.