Survey finds many truckers say they can’t afford to retire

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Many of the truck drivers on America’s highways today will be there next year, five years from now and maybe many more years after that. Almost half of those drivers say they will stay on the road for one basic reason: they need the money. Certainly, they have bills to pay, but they also, like many Americans

  1. have not saved enough to stop working and 
  2. do not have a retirement program through their job

Those are a few of the findings from a survey of 919 drivers — 589 company drivers and 330 leased owner-operators — conducted for Truckers News and its sister publication Overdrive.

Wdw Iii RetirementThose drivers aren’t unique. 

A poll last year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found 23% of workers, including nearly 20% of those over the age of 50, don’t expect to stop working. Roughly another quarter of Americans say they will continue working beyond their 65th birthday.

That poll also found that about one-third of older Americans say they feel unprepared for retirement, while 40% said they feel only “somewhat prepared.”

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 33 percent of workers expect to retire between the ages of 65 and 69, while 34 percent say they will work until they turn 70 or longer. That compares to fully 51% of truckers in our survey who say they have not decided when or if they will retire, and 28% who expect to retire between the ages of 65 and 67.

However, even the best laid of retirement plans can go wrong. The New York Times reports that a recent study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that 37 percent of workers retired earlier than planned. Health and job losses account for many of those changed plans.

About two-thirds of respondents — 63% — told Truckers News and Overdrive they earned between $50,000 and $100,000 last year, and 12% said they made more than that. Still, one of the reasons many senior drivers may stay on the road as long as possible is because they cannot afford to quit. Almost wo-thirds of respondents to our survey — 64% — said they do not have enough money on which to retire. However, just 13 percent of those drivers polled ranked “saving for retirement” as one of their top three concerns.

That compares to 45% of Americans who have no money set aside and just 19% who say they have less than $10,000 saved, according to a survey by a GOBankingRates survey.

Here’s a closer look at the details of the Truckers News and Overdrive What Drivers Want survey.

We asked: When do you plan to retire from truck driving?

  • Within the next year: 10% (company drivers 10%, leased o-o 10%)
  • When I turn 65: 16% (company drivers 17%, leased o-o 14%)
  • When I turn 67: 12% (company drivers 13%, leased o-o 9%)
  • When I turn 70: 11% (company drivers 12%, leased o-o 9%)
  • I haven’t decided yet: 51% (company drivers 48%, leased o-o 58%)

We asked: If you don’t plan on retiring, why will you keep driving?

  • I need the money: 42% (company drivers 40%, leased o-o 45%) 
  • I like my job: 33% (company drivers 32%, leased o-o 34%)
  • I don’t want to not be working: 25% (company drivers 25%, leased o-o 22%)
  • I need health insurance and I get my coverage through my job: 14% (company drivers 21%, leased o-o 4%)

We asked: Have you saved enough money so you can retire?

  • Yes: 22% (company drivers 24%, leased o-o 19%)
  • No: 64% (company drivers 61%, leased o-o 69%)

We asked: Do you have a retirement program through your truck driving job?

  • Yes: 40% (company drivers 55%, leased o-o 14%)
  • No: 58% (company drivers 43%, leased o-o 85%)
  • I don’t know: 2% (company drivers 2%, leased o-o 1%)

We asked: What are your top three concerns right now?

  • Saving for retirement 13% (company drivers 10%, leased o-o 11%)

We asked: If you were in charge of a fleet and could do ONE thing to attract and retain drivers, you would …

  • Offer excellent health care benefits and 401k: 10% (company drivers 11%, leased o-o 10%%)

We asked: What do you see for the future of your trucking career?

  • I’m happy driving for a fleet — as long as my pay increases every year : 34% (company drivers 45%, leased o-o 14%)
  • I’d like to get out of trucking: 32% (company drivers 24%, leased o-o 50%)
  • I’d like to move into a non-driving job with a fleet: 12% (company drivers 12%, leased o-o 10%)
  • I’d like to buy my own truck and become an owner-operator: 12% (company drivers 9%, leased o-o 11%)  
  • I don’t think I have a long-term career. This is just a job: 10% (company drivers 10, leased o-o 15%)

Here’s a look at who responded to our survey:

We asked: What type of driving do you do

  • Over-the-road (long haul): 56% (company drivers 46%, leased o-o 74%)   
  • Regional: 39% (company drivers 41% , leased o-o 34%)
  • Dedicated: 20% (company drivers 25%, leased o-o 11%)
  • Pickup and delivery: 18% (company drivers 22%, leased o-o 11%)
  • Less-than-truckload: 11% (company drivers 11%, leased o-o 11%)
  • Team: 5% (company drivers 4%, leased o-o 6%)
  • Intermodal: 4% (company drivers 3%, leased o-o 6%)

We asked: How many miles did you drive last year?

  • 75,000 or less: 21% (company drivers 24%, leased o-o 14%) 
  • 75,001 to 100,000: 26% (company drivers 25%, leased o-o 28%)
  • 100,001 to 125,000: 26% (company drivers 25%, leased o-o 29%)
  • 125,001 to 150,000: 19% (company drivers 18%, leased o-o 20%)
  • More than 150,000: 8% (company drivers 8%, leased o-o 9%)

We asked: How long have you been a truck driver?

  • More than 20 years: 63% (company drivers 62%, leased o-o 67%)
  • 16 to 20 years: 10% (company drivers 11%, leased o-o 9%)   
  • 11-15 years: 10% (company drivers 10%, leased o-o 10%)
  • 6 to 10 years: 11% (company drivers 11%, leased o-o 9%)
  • 5 years or less: 6% (company drivers 6%, leased o-o 5%)

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David Hollis is the editor of Truckers News. His email is davidhollis@randallreilly.com.