Bottom Line
It’s Your Business
We’ve got your number

Donna Ryun
OOIDA Information Services

Did you ever test your knowledge by playing along with various trivia games such as TV’s latest version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” There are a variety of subjects covered, but I’ve never seen many questions that relate to trucking on these shows.

I also checked the Web for trucking trivia, and I still came up short, although I found some fun facts like “the average person walks the equivalent of twice around the world in a lifetime,” or “once humans reach age 35, we start losing about 7,000 brain cells a day that will never be replaced.” I guess that might explain why we lose our energy and become forgetful as we get older, but what about those of us who want to talk about trucks?

Where can we find some useful information to use the next time we want to impress another driver, or more importantly, to drive a point home when composing a letter to a politician who knows very little, if anything, about the trucking profession?

If you have good researching skills, statistics can be acquired from a number of resources, including the Bureau of Transportation Statistics; the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System; and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

However, researching for trucking statistics can be very time consuming for busy drivers, so with a considerable amount of patience, and the help of reader surveys conducted by the OOIDA Foundation, I’ve come up with a few tidbits that ought to supply the average trucker with enough information to speak with confidence when conversing with other drivers or elected officials.

The Interstate Highway System
For starters, next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. According to the Web site of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, there are 46,677 road miles of interstate highway, and one fourth of all roadway traffic is carried on this system.

There are probably still a few drivers who remember what trucking was like before the interstate highway system was built. Much of the trucking industry’s growth can be attributed to the interstate system.

Taxes and truckers
Truckers pay 24.4 cents of tax per gallon of diesel for the Highway Trust Fund, plus excise taxes on tires and sales taxes on trucks. Currently, the average small- business trucker typically pays in excess of $10,000 in federal taxes and additional state taxes of more than $6,000 per truck each year.

Q: How much of America’s freight is carried by trucks?
A: The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports figures for 2003 that indicate that 72 percent of all freight carried in America was transported on trucks.

Q: How many are employed in trucking-related jobs?
A: According to the Census Bureau, there were 9,361,690 transportation and material moving employees in 2003.

Q: How many truckers are women?
A: The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that in 2004, 4.5 percent of truck drivers were women.

Q: How many truckers are owner-operators?
A: There are 1.1 million trucks owned by for-hire carriers and 545,000 owner-operator trucks, according to the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Surveys conducted by the OOIDA Foundation have revealed that owner-operators have an average of 1.4 trucks. That indicates there are 390,000 owner-operators in the United States.

Q: How many are leased to a company compared to those with their own operating authority?
A: Of these 390,000 owner-operators, we’ve found that 70 percent of them (or 273,000) are leased to carriers, while the remaining 117,000 have their own operating authority.

Q: How many fatalities are the result of large truck crashes? How many injuries?
A: NHTSA’s 2004 projections reveal that fatalities from large truck crashes increased from 4,986 to 5,169; individuals injured dropped from 122,000 in 2003 to 118,000 in 2004.

Q: Who was at fault in most cases?
A: It’s actually more a case of who was not at fault. In as many as 75 percent of crashes between cars and trucks, the cause was not attributed to an action of the truck driver according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Q: What role does the use of alcohol play in truck crashes?
A: For comparison purposes, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis indicates that in 2003, 1 percent of drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes had BAC levels above 0.08, compared with 22 percent for passenger cars. In addition, driving records of those involved in fatal traffic crashes reveal that 7 percent of large-truck drivers had a previous license suspension or revocation, while 13 percent of passenger car drivers were previously suspended or revoked.

Q: What measures does the FMCSA take to enforce compliance with the regulations?
A: For fiscal year 2004, the FMCSA designated $166 million to the states to be used for compliance and enforcement. A breakdown of federal and state safety enforcement activities for the first nine months of 2004 included:

  • 1,288 border safety audits;
  • 1,991 conditional carrier reviews;
  • 18,604 new entrant safety audits;
  • 8,321 safety compliance reviews;
  • 232,927 border inspections; and
  • 2,157,933 roadside inspections.

Q: What are some comparisons between owner-operators and company drivers?
A: Statistics from OOIDA’s 2004 member profile compiled using a blind sample of the membership population make some interesting comparisons between owner-operators and company drivers. For example:

  • The average age for owner- operators is 49.6 years, and 48.6 years for company drivers;
  • Surveys indicated that owner- operators drove an average of 114,847 miles per year, while company drivers drove 120,640 miles;
  • Home ownership among owner- operators is at 89.7 percent, and 78.9 percent for company drivers;
  • Company drivers smoke more than owner-operators, with averages reflecting 38.9 percent and 29.9 percent respectively; and
  • 52.1 percent of owner-operators use computers for business, compared to 32.2 percent of company drivers who use them for this purpose.

After wading through all of those statistics, I almost forgot to mention a number that, without a doubt, should be of great interest to all owner-operators and professional drivers: Current OOIDA membership as of June 16 is 125,723.

Projections are that this number will certainly increase by press time, and if each one of Land Line’s 229,000 readers convinces a friend to join OOIDA ... well, just think of the possibilities!

If you have questions about doing business as an owner-operator and/or an independent trucker, please e-mail them to or send then to PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We can’t publish all of your questions in Land Line, but you will receive a response, even if your letter is not published.