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Trucking industry finds a place in Des Moines

by GRACE NOACK

Trucking is a $700 billion dollar industry, and Iowa, and the Midwest as a whole, is at the heart of it. In fact, in a recent study of 384 U.S. cities by AdvisorSmith, Des Moines was named the 8th best large city for truck drivers. Which raises the question: what makes a city attractive to a truck driver? 

AdvisorSmith’s study took into account each city’s job density, cost of living and average annual salary for truck drivers. They found that small to midsize cities were typically better for drivers. Despite the fact that Des Moines is considered a large city, it still ranked number 35 out of all 384 cities. 

Des Moines has 56% more truck driving jobs per capita and offers an average annual salary of $49,120, which is 8% above the national average. Additionally, most of the cities listed in the top 50 were located in the Midwest; being in the middle of the country has its perks when it comes to transporting goods.

Since its advent, the trucking industry has been incredibly important to American society, said. Justin Saeheng, the author of the AdvisorSmith article on their study.

“[Truck driving] is the backbone of the country in moving goods. Roughly 80% of what you see around you has touched a truck at some point,” said Saeheng. 

Despite this shocking statistic, the industry has long been overlooked by the very society that depends so heavily upon it. Saeheng thinks the invisibility of the trucking world is changing. 

“There’s a lot of changes happening in the trucking industry,” Saeheng said. “New start-ups are tackling niche problems, trucking companies are trying to make it through the season and ensure profitability [and] partnerships across the value chain are being tested.” 

 Even though trucking has always been a need, the industry is seeing growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, truck driving jobs are increasing at a rate of 6%. Saeheng believes that this growth can be attributed to the rise in E-commerce. 

As for the future of trucking, Saeheng postulates that there will be self-driving trucks, saying that some start-ups are already working on it. However, Saeheng does not view this marriage between technology and trucking to be a detriment to human truck drivers, in fact, he thinks technology might help create more jobs for drivers. Self-driving trucks are expected to make the long-haul trucking process more efficient and safer.

When most people think of a truck driver they probably picture a middle-aged man who wears flannels and has a handlebar mustache. Yet, there are actually part-time truck drivers at Drake. Michael Moorhead is a sophomore studying secondary education with concentrations in biology and coaching, and for three weekends last year, he was a truck driver. Moorhead was referred to the job with Jolesch Enterprises by one of his Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers. 

Jolesch is a company that supplies photography equipment for marching band competitions and other large group events. They hire truck drivers to transport and set up supplies at different competitions across the nation. So for three weekends during the fall of his freshman year, 18-year-old Moorhead set off on a cross-country road trip in a 10-foot-long box truck. The trips would typically span from Friday to Sunday, which didn’t leave much time for homework. Moorhead said that juggling trucking and school was definitely a challenge, but more often than not, professors were willing to work with him. 

The furthest trip Moorhead ever took was to Powder Springs, Georgia, a 1,700 mile round trip. 

“I wasn’t worried about falling asleep, I drank so much caffeine I definitely gave myself a heart condition,” said Moorhead. 

For Moorhead, the only time he was worried about crashing was when he was in a mountainous part of Georgia. He ended up making his co-driver, and fellow SAE brother, drive. The overall experience, according to Moorhead, was positive, besides the one speeding ticket he got in Tennessee. He got to see new parts of the country, he said his favorite place he drove through was that aforementioned mountainous area in Georgia.

“It was really scenic, but had a lack of nice guard rails,” Moorhead said.

More importantly though, he was able to make a good amount of money relatively quickly, a concept that is especially attractive to college students who are notoriously busy and in debt. 

“It’s above minimum wage pay and I get paid to sit there,” Moorhead said. “They pay for my hotel, they pay for my meals and it’s a lot of money in a short amount of time.”

Although the average person may not know much about the trucking industry, truck drivers supply us with things we need in our daily lives. In that way, it’s hard not to think of drivers as almost invisible, everyday Santas. 

Saeheng’s article can be found here.

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