Retirement: Not a choice for many drivers; a lot say they can't afford it

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Updated Jul 18, 2023
Highway sign with 'Work' and 'Retire' arrows

Much is made about the graying of America’s corps of truck drivers. The American Trucking Associations says the median age of over-the-road truckers is 46. For private fleets it’s 57. That compares to a median age of 42 for all U.S. workers, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Screenshot 2023 05 16 At 10 29 08 AmSo, when talk turns to the trucking industry having an adequate supply of drivers, trucker retirement is always a topic of concern. However, like many Americans, plenty of truckers in a recent survey by Truckers News and its sister publication Commercial Carrier Journal (Download the entire What Drivers Want survey from CCJ here) said they have no plans to retire. Many said they want to keep driving because they enjoy the work, while others said they can’t hang up the keys for financial reasons.

Fully 26% of all respondents in the survey of more than 800 drivers said they would keep driving as long as they were healthy. Another 32% said they have yet to decide when they will retire. Other results found:

  • 11% plan to retire at age 65
  • 12% at age 67
  • 10% at 70

Of those who said they planned to keep driving as long as their health holds out, 24% were company drivers and 29% were leased owner-operators.

When we asked when they planned to retire, some drivers said they wanted to keep doing the job they enjoy too much to quit. They said:

  • “I'm past the retirement age, but I like driving. Got in my blood.”
  • “I will always work at least part-time if I am healthy. I still love trucking.”
  • “If the job is stimulating and I'm contributing to the bottom line, I would continue (to) work.”
  • “My truck is a recreational vehicle that pays me to drive it and I’m getting paid to be on a permanent vacation.”
  • “I plan to drive until they tell me I can't drive anymore.”
  • “At 70 I would consider driving part-time.”
  • “I'm already over 70. My carrier has an 80-year age limit and I imagine that's likely the longest I will work.”
  • “Unofficially I will probably hang it up sometime between 80 and 85.”

Others were a bit more emphatic. Their comments included:

  • “Probably have to be removed from the driver's seat kicking and screaming.”
  • “When you pry my cold dead fingers off the wheel.”
  • “When God says it's time then that's when I will walk away.”

For some, getting out of the cab permanently any time soon is not an option.

  • “Hopefully I'll die before I can't work anymore. I can't afford not to work.”
  • “I would like to get out at 67, but I doubt that’s going to happen due to lack of investing.”
  • “Two years ago, I intended to drive at least until I turned 67. Today, that doesn't look like a viable option.”

While 37% of survey respondents said they want to keep driving because they like their jobs, almost an equal amount – 34% – said they had to keep driving because they need the money. In a similar vein, 14% said they had to keep driving in order to hold onto their health insurance benefits.

Only slightly more company drivers (37%) than leased owner-operators (35%) said they want to keep driving because they like their jobs. 

But, the gap widened on the topic of money with more company drivers (36%) than leased owner-operators (29%) saying they will keep driving out of financial concerns.

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Our survey found that most respondents, including many older drivers, do not have sufficient savings to retire. 

Fully 63% said they have not saved enough money to retire. Another 15% said they did not know if they did. Just 22% said they had sufficient funds to retire.

The number of drivers who have not saved enough is almost exactly the same between company drivers (64%) and leased owner-operators (63%).

When it came to the age of drivers without sufficient retirement savings, 80% of those between the ages of 35 and 54 said they are lacking funds. Another 58% of drivers 55 years old and older have not saved enough to retire. 

Who took the survey

A total of 812 drivers responded to our survey; 566 company drivers and 246 leased owner-operators. Most – 53% – are over-the-road long-haul drivers.

These are mostly veteran drivers. Fully 72% of respondents are 55 years old or older; 27% are between the ages of 35 and 54 while just 2% are 34 and younger. 

Respondents are also drivers who have spent much of their lives on the road: 69% said they have driven for 20 years or more; 8% have driven 16 to 20 years; 6% for 11 to 15 years; 8% 6 to 10 years; and 7% for 5 years or less.

They are also serious road warriors with the miles to prove it. Twenty-six percent said they drive between 100,001 and 125,000 miles a year and the same number typically log from 75,001 to 100,000 miles. Another 17% drove between 125,001 and 150,000 miles and 8% logged over 150,00.

And, what did they get for all those miles?

Slightly more than half – 53% – said they earned a net income of over $75,001 in the last year; 31% earned $75,001 and $100,000 and 22% said they earned $100,000 or more.