Purpose of this study
As we head into the holiday season, the sight of trucks on the road will be as common as twinkling lights—a good reminder that the trucking industry works hard to ensure our holiday celebrations are filled with joy, gifts and all the festive essentials. We work to provide truck drivers resources and services that match their valuable contributions to our economy, so we decided to dig into how we as Americans think and talk about trucking.
In our survey, “How America Thinks and Talks Trucks,” we asked 2,000 Americans about the terminology they use and perceptions they have on trucking and trucker drivers. Respondents from all 50 states were included and analyzed by census region: Northeast, Midwest, South and West.
- Americans value and hold largely positive views of truck drivers.
- Americans across all regions are familiar with the trucking industry, and Southerners are confident they understand trucking and truck drivers best.
- Regional terminology for trucks differs, but “18-wheeler” is the most popular term for trucks nationwide.
Americans value and hold largely positive views of truck drivers
Across regions, Americans overwhelmingly say “truck drivers play a crucial role in the economy” (80%) and sympathize with truckers for “frequently” having to “encounter aggressive or unsafe behaviors from other motorists” (43%). Nearly a third (33%) said truck drivers are not adequately compensated for their work.
When asked about the images that come to mind when thinking of truck drivers, some limiting perceptions persisted. About 21% of respondents suggested drivers are older white males with tattoos and rough appearances, and 13% suggested they are reckless and disregard traffic rules and safety precautions.
However, most respondents across the U.S. regions opted for far more positive descriptions of truck drivers. Many respondents (35%) described drivers as industrious, overworked and underpaid. Approximately 32% of respondents also described drivers as reliable and punctual.
When asked what they would think if they met a truck driver in a social setting, almost half (48%) of respondents said they would have respect for the driver’s hard work, sacrifices and contributions to society. Many (46%) also indicated they would have an interest in learning more about the drivers’ travels and experiences in the trucking industry. Far fewer respondents made negative assumptions about truck drivers’ politics, education or other traits.
Americans are familiar with the trucking industry, and Southerners are most confident they understand trucking and trucker drivers
Southerners showed a high degree of confidence in their understanding of the daily life and challenges faced by truck drivers, with 69% claiming to be “very familiar” (29%) or “somewhat familiar” (40%), compared to 57% of Northeasterners who answered “very familiar” (19%) or “somewhat familiar” (37%).
Across the U.S., 65% of respondents said they were “very familiar” (26%) or “somewhat familiar” (39%) with the daily life and challenges faced by truck drivers.
Our survey also included a short quiz on basic trucking industry knowledge.
Respondents nationwide displayed strong industry knowledge, with many correctly identifying New York, Texas and Ohio as the respective answers to the following questions.
Notably, Northeasterners appear to know trucking quite well. Participants from the region did the best on the quiz. They were most likely to correctly respond that New York has the toughest trucking regulations. They were also more likely than Southerners to identify Texas as the state with the highest concentration of trucking companies and Ohio as a major trucking hub.
Regional terminology differs, but “18-wheeler” is the most popular name for trucks nationwide
When asked “What term do you commonly use to refer to a large truck used for shipping goods?” each part of the country identified a different, preferred term.
Southerners mostly prefer the term “18-wheeler”, which received votes from 25% of respondents from the region. The term was also in the top three for every other region. This, combined with the South being the most populous of the four census regions, took “18-wheeler” to the top of the rankings nationwide.
Midwesterners prefer the terms “semi” and “semi-truck”, which received 28% and 27% of their responses, respectively. About 11% answered “18-wheeler” in this region.
People in the Northeast favor “tractor-trailer” (30%) over the second most popular term, “18-wheeler”(16%).
In the West, people seem to prefer the term “semi-truck” (19%), followed by “semi” and “18-wheeler” at 17%. “Big rig” and “rig” are popular in the West as well – those terms received a combined 17% of responses.
Broken down by state, 13 states chose “18-wheeler,” 13 favored “semi,” 13 (including the District of Columbia) chose “tractor-trailer,” and 12 picked “semi-truck.”
“Other” popular names provided by respondents included “delivery truck”, “freight truck” and “mack truck”.
Tobenna Arodiogbu, co-founder and CEO, CloudTrucks, said the results were encouraging for the trucking industry.
“It’s great to see that so many people value and feel positively about truck drivers and the work they do,” said Tobenna Arodiogbu, co-founder and CEO, CloudTrucks. “Most freight in the U.S. is moved by trucks so drivers and the trucking industry as a whole are absolutely essential to our daily existence. Perhaps positive perceptions will continue to grow as consumer activities like e-commerce become more popular and the general public interacts more with the trucking industry via experiences like package tracking. We have to keep working to ensure this value translates monetarily to drivers.”
- 2,000 U.S. adults were surveyed on Oct. 6, 2023, by the third-party platform Pollfish.
- Respondents from all 50 states were included and analyzed by census region: Northeast, Midwest, South and West. The percentage of respondents from each census region approximates the population differences for each region.
- The Northeast region comprises Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Midwest region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The South region encompasses Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. The West region comprises Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.