Truck Transportation in Oregon

by Dallas Fridley

March 7, 2018

Oregon’s truck transportation industry has yet to regain all of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession. Job growth slowed in 2016 to less than 1 percent – and the first nine-months of 2017 have produced small job losses for the tri-county Portland area (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties) and other Oregon regions.

Oregon’s truck transportation industry peaked in 2006 with around 19,500 jobs following four years of solid growth. Employment bottomed out in 2010 when it averaged 16,300 jobs, a drop of 17 percent with 3,200 jobs cut. From 2011 to 2016, truck transportation rose by 2,400 jobs, pushing its 2016 average to just over 18,700.

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. Payroll rebounded in 2010 and reached a new peak of $917 million in 2016, an increase of $97 million or 12 percent since 2006.

Regional Results

On a regional basis, the tri-county Portland area suffered 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 rising to about 9,000 jobs in 2016, a gain of about 1,110. Outside Portland, the rest of Oregon performed considerably better, adding more than 1,300 jobs to average nearly 9,800 in 2016.

Based on 2006 employment levels, Portland’s tri-county area comprised half of Oregon’s truck transportation industry. Moving forward to 2016, its share fell to 48 percent while all other Oregon regions rose to 52 percent, with a difference of about 800 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 12,400 in 2016, about 66 percent of the truck transportation total, while specialized freight provided 6,300 jobs or 34 percent. To regain its 2006 peak, general freight needs an additional 900 jobs, while specialized freight’s employment set a new peak in 2016, about 100 jobs or 1 percent higher.

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 2016, the tri-county Portland area averaged 6,300 or 51 percent of general freight’s jobs.

The tri-county Portland area’s specialized freight industry averaged nearly 2,700 jobs in 2016, surpassing its 2006 employment by about 100. Its share of specialized freight employment rose slightly, from 41 percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2016.
Outside the tri-county Portland area, 2016 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 92 percent of the industry’s employment by race in 2016. Across all industries whites represented about 88 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 more than 53 percent of the industry’s total employment in 2016. Across all industries, workers in these age groups represented a much smaller share of Oregon’s employment, at 36 percent. Across all industries, the 25 to 34 age group represented 23 percent of all workers, while the share in truck transportation was about 14 percent.

The educational attainment of Oregon truck transportation workers (aged 25 or older) was typically high school or equivalent. About 36 percent of the industry’s 2016 workers completed high school but 13 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 just over 14 percent.

2017 Year-to-Date

Truck transportation averaged about 18,700 jobs over the first nine months of 2017, a loss of nearly 100 (-0.2%) compared with the same nine-month period in 2016. The industry needs to add an additional 900 jobs to regain its 2006 employment peak. Truck transportation rose by just 0.4 percent or less than 100 jobs in 2016 – its slowest pace since 2012’s 1.9 percent.


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