Truck Transportation in Oregon

by Dallas Fridley

May 22, 2019

Oregon’s truck transportation industry leveled off in 2016, averaging 18,800 jobs, ending a six-year, post-Great Recession growth spurt. The industry’s employment held steady in both 2017 and 2018. At its 2006 pre-Great Recession peak, truck transportation averaged 19,700 jobs. Truck transportation hit bottom in 2010 with 16,500 jobs, leaving a gap of 3,200 or 16 percent to fill.

Truck transportation payrolls also peaked in 2006 at $820 million. By 2009, truck transportation payrolls dropped to $671 million, a loss of $149 million or 18 percent. Payrolls rose to $1.0 billion in 2018, an increase of $187.7 million or 22.9 percent since 2006. CPI-adjusted for inflation, truck transportation’s 2006 payroll totaled $1.02 billion, or about 1.3 percent above its most recent 2018 payroll total.

Regional Results

On a regional basis, the tri-county Portland area experienced a deeper job loss, falling from 9,800 in 2006 to 7,900 in 2010, down 1,900 jobs or 19 percent.
Outside the tri-county Portland area, truck transportation peaked at roughly the same level, with just over 9,700 jobs in 2006. But job losses were less severe, falling by around 1,300 or 14 percent to average 8,400 in 2010.

Oregon’s truck transportation industry started adding back jobs in 2011, with the tri-county Portland area reaching 9,100 jobs in 2018, an increase of 1,200. Outside Portland, the rest of Oregon performed considerably better, adding more than 1,400 jobs to reach 9,800 in 2016, an increase of 100 jobs over its 2006 peak. Employment outside Portland dropped slightly in 2017 and held steady in 2018 with 9,700 jobs or 52 percent of Oregon’s total.

Based on 2006 employment levels, Portland’s tri-county area comprised half of Oregon’s truck transportation industry. Moving forward to 2018, its share fell to 48 percent, a difference of about 600 jobs.

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 12,600 in 2018, about 67 percent of the truck transportation total, while specialized freight provided 6,100 jobs or 33 percent. To regain its 2006 peak, general freight needs an additional 700 jobs, while specialized freight set a new employment peak in 2016, reaching 6,300.

The Portland metro area (Multnomah and Washington counties) and Clackamas County commanded the lion’s share of general freight jobs with about 7,300 or 55 percent of Oregon’s total attributed to the tri-county Portland area in 2006. In 2018, the tri-county Portland area averaged 6,500 or 51 percent of general freight’s jobs.

The tri-county Portland area’s specialized freight industry averaged about 2,500 jobs in 2018, matching its 2006 pre-Great Recession peak but falling about 200 jobs shy of its more recent 2016 peak. Its share of specialized freight employment rose slightly, from 41 percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2018.

Outside the tri-county Portland area, 2018 results were somewhat better, with general freight rising above its 2006 peak to average 6,100 jobs. Specialized freight fell just 1 percent shy of its 2006 peak to average about 3,600 jobs.
Worker Characteristics

Truck transportation workers were predominantly white, representing 91 percent of the industry’s employment by race in 2018. Across all industries whites represented about 87 percent of Oregon’s total employment.
Truck transportation workers were heavily concentrated in the 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 age groups, which together represented 52 percent of the industry’s total employment in 2018. Across all industries, workers in these age groups represented a much smaller share of Oregon’s employment, at 37 percent. Across all industries, the 25 to 34 age group represented 22 percent of all workers, while the share in truck transportation was about 15 percent.

The educational attainment of Oregon truck transportation workers (aged 25 or older) was typically high school or equivalent. About 35 percent of the industry’s 2018 workers completed high school but 14 percent did not. Together, the two groups comprised 49 percent of truck transportation workers. Across all industries, the less than high school group comprised around 11 percent of Oregon’s workers (workers age 25 and older), while the high school group represented 24 percent. Truck transportation workers with training beyond high school or an associate’s degree held 32 percent of its jobs, compared with 29 percent across all Oregon industries. Nearly one out of four Oregon workers aged 25 or older (24%) obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, while the share in truck transportation was about 15 percent.

2019 Year-to-Date

Truck transportation averaged about 18,700 jobs over the first four months of 2019, an increase of 200 jobs or 1 percent compared with the same four-month period in 2018. Truck transportation typically reaches its seasonal peak in August – and with just four months of employment data, it’s too early to say whether the industry’s uptick will result in 2019 job growth.

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