Truck Transportation in Oregon

by Dallas Fridley

October 27, 2020

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 2017, rose by 100 in 2018, and again in 2019 to reach 19,000 jobs. At its 2006 pre-Great Recession peak, truck transportation averaged 19,700 jobs before falling 3,200 jobs or 16 percent by 2010.

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 $1.042 billion in 2019, an increase of $222 million or 27.1 percent since 2006. CPI-adjusted for inflation, truck transportation’s 2006 payroll totaled $1.040 billion, slightly below (-0.2%) its most recent 2019 payroll total.

Regional Results

On a regional basis, the Portland tri-county area, which is composed of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties, experienced a deeper job loss, falling from 9,800 in 2006 to 7,900 in 2010, down 1,900 or 19 percent.
Outside the Portland tri-county area, truck transportation peaked at roughly the same level, with just over 9,700 jobs in 2006. However, job losses were less severe, with employment 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 Portland tri-county area reaching 9,100 jobs in 2018, an increase of 1,200. The Portland area’s employment rose by 200 jobs in 2019 to reach 9,300. Outside of Portland, the rest of Oregon performed slightly better, adding 1,400 jobs to reach 9,800 in 2016, an increase of 100 over its 2006 peak. Employment outside of Portland dropped slightly in 2017 and held steady in 2018 with 9,700 jobs. The balance of state cut 100 jobs in 2019, falling to 9,600, representing 51 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 2019, its share fell slightly to 49 percent, a difference of about 500 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 12,700 in 2019, about 67 percent of the truck transportation total, while specialized freight provided 6,200 jobs or 33 percent. To regain its 2006 peak, general freight needs an additional 600 jobs, while specialized held its own at 6,200.

The Portland-metro area (Multnomah and Washington counties) and Clackamas County commanded the lion’s share of general freight jobs in 2006 with about 7,300 or 55 percent of Oregon’s total. In 2019, the Portland tri-county area averaged 6,600 or 52 percent of general freight’s jobs.

The Portland tri-county area’s specialized freight industry averaged about 2,600 jobs in 2019, surpassing its 2006 pre-Great Recession peak by 100 but falling about 100 jobs shy of its more recent 2016 peak. The Portland area held 42 percent of specialized freight’s jobs in 2019.

Outside the Portland tri-county area, 2019 results were mixed, with general freight falling 100 jobs below its 2016 peak to average 6,000 jobs. Specialized freight held steady in 2019 with 3,600 jobs, 100 below its 2006 peak.
Worker Characteristics

Truck transportation workers were predominantly white, representing 91 percent of the industry’s employment by race in 2019. 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 51 percent of the industry’s total employment in 2019. Across all industries, workers in these age groups represented a much smaller share of Oregon’s employment, at 37 percent. The 25 to 34 age group represented 22 percent of all Oregon workers, while the share in truck transportation was about 16 percent.

Looking at educational attainment, 34 percent of Oregon’s truck transportation workers (aged 25 or older) completed high school in 2019 but 14 percent did not. Together, the two groups comprised 48 percent of truck transportation workers. Across all industries, the less than high school group comprised around 11 percent of Oregon’s workers, while the high school group represented 24 percent. Truck transportation workers with training beyond high school or an associate’s degree held 31 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.

2020 Year-to-Date

Truck transportation averaged about 18,000 jobs over the first nine months of 2020, a loss of 1,000 jobs or 5.3 percent compared with the same nine-month period in 2019. Truck transportation typically hits its seasonal peak in August – and the industry reached 19,300 in 2019, a difference of 1,500 compared with August 2020. Looking at January to September 2020, truck transportation fell to a low-point of 17,400 jobs in May, from a peak of 18,500 in March.


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