What Would Happen if Every Truck Driver Stopped Working? 4 Facts About Trucking

Hannah DeWitt
· 4 min read
Truck drivers are responsible for shipping important supplies to retailers and other large industries across the nation. However, the majority of drivers are headed for retirement with few fresh faces to replace them. 
Trucking groups
are working to attract more drivers by offering higher wages, less stressful working conditions, and investing in
autonomous vehicle technology
With the recent labor shortage affecting the country, it's no surprise that the trucking industry took a hit as well. We don’t often think about the workings of the industry, but what would happen if every truck driver quit their job right now? 
Here are four facts about trucking and how much chaos would arise if every truck driver stopped working, according to
Trucking is a vital part of the country’s commerce system.

How many truck drivers are there?

Census data shows that 3.5 million truckers were on the road in 2019, employed by 1.2 million trucking businesses. Most of these truckers work full-time, and the industry offers more work opportunities for veterans and disabled citizens. 
If all these workers stopped working for just three days, long-time truckers say that it would cause a retail wasteland and mass panic. Grocery store shelves wouldn't be stocked for long, nor would we be able to buy as many fancy gadgets. Hospitals wouldn't receive important medical supplies like PPE, diagnostic machinery, and ventilators. 
Gas wouldn't be delivered to fuel stations, and the
semiconductor chips
that automakers are clamoring for wouldn’t arrive. Major airlines would be forced to ground their planes to wait for essential supplies. If garbage trucks stopped making the rounds, literal tons of trash would accumulate, imposing serious health risks.
Remember when hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer was suddenly a thing last year? Consumers typically stock up on certain items when they know there's an inventory shortage. Essential goods would sell out quickly, leaving some people hungry for days.
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How many goods rely on trucks for transportation?

According to
, truck drivers help shuttle 80% of all freight that gets transported to the U.S. each year.
Trucking is responsible for transporting at least 72% of all consumer goods, worth a total of $700.4 billion. Additionally, corporations pay these trucking companies a collective $791 billion to move those goods across the nation.

How many miles do commercial trucks drive?

Truck drivers work just as hard as airline pilots, collectively driving 450 billion miles on an annual basis. That's an average of around 80,000-100,000 miles for every single driver. 
As you can imagine, driving so many miles per year takes a toll on the body. Many of these drivers work grueling 12-hour shifts, seeing their families only a few days at a time. It's hard to eat healthily when you're constantly on the highway, so many workers have poor diets and high blood pressure.

How much fuel do all these commercial trucks consume?

CNET said the average semi-truck burns through 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year. Trucks also tend to produce a lot of pollutants—at least 25% of the collective transportation industry emissions. Even the most efficient commercial truck, the Freightliner SuperTruck, only gets 12 mpg.
Fortunately, more trucking companies are setting their sights on
self-driving trucks
. Experts say these trucks would be able to stay on the road for longer periods of time and travel faster. These trucks will likely still need a few more years in development, considering that smaller vehicles with autopilot still aren't 100% safe.
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