Firms in the truck transportation and warehousing industry provide a link between manufacturers and consumers. Businesses contract with trucking and warehousing companies to pick up, transport, store, and deliver a variety of goods. The industry includes general freight trucking, specialized freight trucking, and warehousing and storage.
General freight trucking uses motor vehicles, such as trucks and tractor-trailers, to provide over-the-road transportation of general commodities. This industry segment is further subdivided based on distance traveled. Local trucking establishments carry goods primarily within a single metropolitan area and its adjacent non-urban areas. Long-distance trucking establishments carry goods between distant areas.
Local trucking comprised 29,400 trucking establishments in 2008. The work of local trucking firms varies with the products transported. Produce truckers usually pick up loaded trucks early in the morning and spend the rest of the day delivering produce to many different locations. Some local truck transportation firms may also take on sales and customer relations responsibilities for a client, in addition to delivering the firm's products.
Long-distance trucking comprises establishments engaged primarily in providing trucking between distant areas and sometimes between the United States and Canada or Mexico. Numbering 40,900 establishments, these firms handle every kind of commodity.
Specialized freight trucking provides over-the-road transportation of freight, which, because of size, weight, shape, or other inherent characteristics, requires specialized equipment, such as flatbeds, tankers, or refrigerated trailers. This industry sector also includes the moving industry—that is, the transportation of household, institutional, and commercial furniture for individuals or companies that are relocating. Like general freight trucking, specialized freight trucking is subdivided into local and long-distance components. The specialized freight trucking sector contained 47,600 establishments in 2008.
Many goods are carried using intermodal transportation to save time and money. Intermodal transportation encompasses any combination of transportation by truck, train, plane, or ship. Typically, trucks perform at least one leg of the trip, since they are the most flexible mode of transport. For example, a shipment of paper leaves from the mill and begins its journey when they are loaded onto rail cars. Next, trains hauls the cars across country to a depot, where the shipments are broken into smaller lots and loaded onto tractor-trailers, which drive them to printers or warehouses. Each of these steps is carefully orchestrated and timed so that the cars arrive just in time to be shipped on their next leg of their journey. Though some perishable and time-sensitive goods may be transported by air, they are usually picked up and delivered by trucks.
Warehousing and storage facilities comprised 15,200 establishments in 2008. These firms are engaged primarily in operating warehousing and storage facilities for general merchandise and refrigerated goods. They take responsibility for keeping general merchandise and refrigerated goods secure and in good condition. A growing number of warehousing and storage facilities also may provide some logistical services, such as labeling, inventory control management, repackaging, and transportation arrangement.
Trucking and warehousing firms often provide logistical services encompassing the entire transportation process. Logistical services manage all aspects of the movement of goods between producers and consumers. Among their value-added services are sorting bulk goods into customized lots, packaging and repackaging goods, controlling and managing inventory, order entering and fulfillment, labeling, performing light assembly, and marking prices. Some full-service companies even perform warranty repair work and serve as local parts distributors for manufacturers. Some of these services, such as maintaining and retrieving computerized inventory information on the location, age, and quantity of goods available, have helped to improve the efficiency of relationships between manufacturers and customers.
Many companies use just-in-time shipping, which means that goods arrive just before they are needed, saving recipients money by reducing their need to carry large inventories. These technologies and processes reflect two major trends in warehousing: supply chain integration, whereby firms involved in production, transportation, and storage all move in concert so as to act with the greatest possible efficiency; and ongoing attempts to reduce inventory levels and increase inventory accuracy.
Citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition, Truck Transportation and Warehousing , on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs021.htm.