Industry Employment Outlook – Transportation and Logistics

Accelerate Your Career  |  Transportation and Logistics Companies Want Veterans on Their Teams

Published in the July/August 2013 issue of print Search & Employ®      

The transportation and logistics industries are expanding, and they need your help. There are more trucks on the highways, more trains on the tracks, more ships and boats on the waterways, and more planes and helicopters in the air. And that means more jobs. With the economy heading in the right direction, the industries need to staff up to get back to where they were before the recession started in 2008 – or even go beyond those levels.

Other factors are also creating job openings in some parts of the transportation and logistics industries. A large number of workers are nearing retirement. There will be a fair-sized exodus from the rail industry over the next decade, for example. Many truck drivers are also reaching retirement age.

Another contributor will be an expansion of the Panama Canal, slated for completion in 2015. The project will make it easier for bigger cargo ships to reach the East Coast from Asia.


Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Trucking

In this industry, 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.

Technology is changing how the industry is working. Truckers can communicate with their offices in real time. Drivers receive point-of-sale data to ensure that their customers keep their inventories up. Customers can track and trace their shipments, receive shipment-delay alerts, and receive invoices electronically.

Although the trucking industry lost 150,000 jobs when the 2008 recession hit, the demand for drivers has increased every year since then. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a part of the United States Department of Labor, expects employment in the heavy and tractor-trailer truck driving industry to increase 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than average among all industries. The BLS predicts there will be 649,400 job openings in this industry between 2010 and 2020.
The BLS expects opportunities for drivers to be especially favorable. Many people leave the profession because of the lengthy periods away from home and the long hours of driving, so there are always openings.

In addition, the industry needs new drivers each year to replace those who retire. Drivers tend to be older than the average American worker, with only 17 percent of today’s drivers 34 or younger. Nearly 51 percent are 45 or older. All of this should sound like opportunity to veteran job seekers.

The improving economy is also playing a role, increasing the demand for goods and therefore the demand for drivers to move the goods. Another factor is the introduction of regulations that make it harder for some drivers to get the credentials they need to drive particular cargo.

Opportunities for diesel service technicians and mechanics also look good, especially for applicants who have formal post-secondary training. And growth in truck transportation and warehousing should lead to added employment in office and administrative support. Trucking companies will need more dispatchers, stock clerks, and shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks. Opportunities for people who have information technology skills should be excellent.


Rail Transportation

Business is picking up on the rails, too. The year 2012 was good, with companies gaining due to a need for more container transport. The $5.3 billion Panama Canal expansion will soon play a big role, and so will an expected increase in gasoline prices. The railroad companies have been busy preparing their lines for increased traffic, whether it comes from the east or the west.

Rail intermodal shipments are growing as a result of the major investments that freight railroads have been making in equipment, facilities, and infrastructure. Those investments include $25.5 billion in spending in 2012 – and about the same amount is budgeted for this year. Intermodal volume has risen from 3.1 million containers and trailers in 1980 to 12.3 million units in 2012.

There are three types of railroads: freight, passenger, and urban transit (subway and light rail). Freight railroads transport billions of tons of goods to destinations within the United States and to ports to be shipped abroad. Passenger railroads deliver millions of passengers and long-distance commuters to destinations throughout the country. Subways and light-rail systems move passengers within metropolitan areas and their surrounding suburbs. All of these modes of rail transportation require employees to operate, oversee, and assist in rail operations – including workers in yards where railcars are inspected, repaired, coupled, and uncoupled.

The BLS expects employment in most rail-transportation occupations to rise 5 percent from 2010 through 2020, slower than average for all occupations. However, actual job openings will be higher due to an older workforce that is nearing retirement age. Salaries vary by job in the railroad industry; salaries for conductors or yardmasters average $54,700, according to the BLS.


Water Transportation

The movement of huge amounts of cargo and passengers over U.S. waters and the oceans depends on water-transportation workers known as merchant mariners. Those workers operate and maintain civilian-owned deep-sea merchant ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, barges, offshore supply vessels, cruise ships, and other waterborne craft on the oceans, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals, and other waterways, as well as in harbors.

The BLS projects that employment in water transportation will grow by 20 percent over the 2010-2020 period. This is much faster than the average for other occupations. Job growth will stem from increasing tourism and a rise in offshore oil and gas production. Employment will also grow in and around major port cities due to increasing international trade.

Excellent job opportunities are anticipated over the next decade as the need to replace workers, particularly officers, will generate many job openings. High turnover, retirements, and growth in the level of trade occurring worldwide will cause more jobs to be created than there will be people interested in filling them. Also, the number of graduates from maritime academies has not kept up with the demand for ship officers.


Air Transportation

Commercial airlines fly millions of people across the country for business and pleasure. Air transportation also represents the fastest way to ship most types of cargo over long distances. There is a consistent demand for air-service workers because the air transportation industry tends to be stable.

The BLS expects jobs for airline and commercial pilots to grow about 11 percent between 2010 and 2020, about as fast as average. Jobs for flight attendants, however, are not supposed to grow at all during that time frame.

The outlook is best for aircraft pilots and flight engineers because of growth among regional and low-cost carriers. College graduates and former military pilots can expect to have the best job prospects. Opportunities will continue to exist for pilots who work for air-cargo carriers because of the increase in global freight demand.

The outlook is also favorable for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians, reflecting the likelihood of fewer entrants from the military and a large number of retirements. However, mechanics and technicians will face more competition for jobs with large airlines, because the high wages and travel benefits that these jobs offer generally attract more qualified applicants than there are openings.



Descriptions of jobs in the trucking industry often use the terms “TL carrier” and “LTL carrier.” The Truck Writers of North America explain the difference at A TL (truckload) carrier is a trucking company that dedicates trailers to a single shipper’s cargo, as opposed to an LTL (less than truckload) carrier, which transports the consolidated cargo of several shippers and makes multiple deliveries.



Descriptions of jobs in the trucking industry often use the terms “common carrier” and “private carrier.” The following definitions are based on a glossary published by the Truck Writers of North America at

Common Carrier:  A freight transportation company that serves the general public. May be regular route service (over designated highways on a regular basis) or irregular route (between various points on an unscheduled basis).

Private Carrier:  A business that operates trucks primarily for the purpose of transporting its own products and raw materials. Transportation is not the principal business of a private carrier. Large chains of grocery stores, for example, have their own fleets of trucks.



From a glossary published by the Council of Supply Chain management Professionals (

 Inbound Logistics: The movement of materials from suppliers and vendors into production processes or storage facilities.

Intermodal Transportation: Transporting freight by using two or more transportation modes such as (a) truck and rail or (b) truck and oceangoing vessel.

Logistics: The process of planning, implementing, and controlling procedures for the efficient and effective forward and reverse flow and storage of goods, services, and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption to meet customers’ requirements. This definition includes inbound, outbound, internal, and external movements.

Outbound Logistics: The process related to the movement and storage of products from the end of the production line to the end user.

Supply Chain: The material and informational interchanges in the logistical process stretching from acquisition of raw materials to delivery of finished products to the end user. All vendors, service providers, and customers are links in the supply chain.

Third-Party Logistics Provider: A firm that provides multiple logistics services for use by customers. Preferably, these services are integrated, or “bundled” together by the provider. These firms facilitate the movement of parts and materials from suppliers to manufacturers, and finished products from manufacturers to distributors and retailers. Among the services which they provide are transportation, warehousing, cross-docking, inventory management, and freight forwarding.

About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers