As a truck driver who’s looking for a new job, there are a ton of factors to consider before making your decision. You’re probably thinking about your preferred range, what you want to haul, and what’s the minimum home time you need, but there’s one option that you might not be thinking about; whether you want to be a part of a union or not. Here’s everything truck drivers need to know to decide whether joining a trucking union is right for them.
What’s the History of Unions in Trucking?
Labor unions have a long and storied history in the United States. Going back to the 18th century, labor unions have been the driving force behind workers advancing their interests, not just in trucking but in almost every blue-collar field.
For many reasons that are too in-depth to get into, labor unions aren’t as popular as they were at their height in the mid-20th century. Around this time, 35% of all workers in the country belonged to a labor union.
While unions have steadily decreased in popularity over the last 40 years, For trucking specifically, unions were dealt their biggest blow when congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. Among other things, this legislation led to a sweeping deregulation of the trucking industry. The bill had (and has) far-reaching effects on the industry and economy at large.
One of the biggest changes it led to was allowing more low-cost, non-union carriers to enter the industry. This started a trend of there being fewer and fewer union carriers, and decreased power for labor unions.
But it’s not all bad news for labor unions. According to a recent Gallup poll, support for labor unions among Americans is the highest it’s been in the last 57 years. Could this mean that we’ll see an increase in unionization among truck drivers? Time will tell.
Are There Union Jobs in Trucking Today?
Yes, the vast majority of truck drivers who are unionized fall under the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – Freight Division. This division includes not only truck drivers, but dockworkers, mechanics, and others.
Though the number of unionized truck drivers is much smaller than it was in years past, there a still a number of companies with unionized truck drivers. You can find a full list of them here.
How Do I Join a Truck Driver Union?
To join a truck driver union, you’ll need to sign on with a company that has drivers who are a part of that union. But don’t just assume that if a carrier has one location that is unionized, that all of them will be.
With a lot of carriers, they’ll have some locations that are unionized and some that aren’t. If you’re interested in being a part of a union, do your research to make sure the specific location you want to work at is unionized.
What are the Pros of Joining a Truck Driver Union?
The thought behind a labor union is simple; strength in numbers. The main benefit of joining a union is being part of a group that collectively bargains for better conditions together. A union will negotiate pay, health insurance, pension, and more for its members.
Though there’s little data that compares the wages of union and non-union truck drivers specifically, earlier this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the following:
“Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169).” – BLS News Release, January 20th, 2022
There’s also added job security for union members, since the union will most likely have legal representation. This is particularly useful for drivers who feel that they’ve been wronged by their carrier in some capacity.
What are the Cons of joining a Truck Driver Union?
Some drivers have reported that the broad protection that unions offer to their members can lead to drivers with less than stellar work habits being able to stay on without punishment. There can also be internal politics, disagreements, and in-fighting when it comes to union leadership.
While many drivers enjoy the fact that a union negotiates pay on their behalf, some more experienced drivers may not. They feel that they could earn more if they were able to negotiate for themselves.
Of course, drivers can have very different experiences with unions. One driver might find value in being part of a larger organization with collective bargaining power, while another driver might see being part of a union as having extra money come out of your paycheck with very little to show for it.
Just like drivers need to decide what pay, home time, and benefits they want; they also need to decide whether they want to be part of a trucking union or not. There are pros and cons to both sides, so do your research to see if it’s a fit for what you want.
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