Data gaps can suddenly appear when policy priorities shift. The events of September 2001 brought into focus a need to more precisely identify the carriers and drivers who transport hazardous materials. Current data systems, for example, raise questions about how many U.S. trucking firms are transporting hazardous materials and where the firms are located. In addition, while drivers of trucks carrying hazardous materials must have a hazardous materials endorsement on their commercial drivers license (CDL), it is not possible to know with certainty how many current CDL holders have the endorsement.
Motor carriers register with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to obtain a DOT identification number. Since September 2001, FMCSA has undertaken a review of the 52,000 motor carriers registered to carry hazardous materials and, as of January 2002, made security visits to over 24,000 carriers. During this process, FMCSA has discovered that nearly 8,000 motor carriers are no longer in business or no longer carry hazardous materials.
The federal government in partnership with the states set up a Commercial Drivers Licensing System (CDLIS) in 1989 as a safety measure to prevent commercial drivers from obtaining licenses from more than one state. States query the CDLIS each time an application for a CDL is made, but records are not necessarily removed as turnover occurs among commercial drivers. In early 2002, out of over 10 million records in CDLIS, there were 2.5 million records of drivers with hazardous materials endorsements. However, there were, at most, 3.3 million employed truck drivers of all types in the United States in 2000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports two different estimates of truck drivers. The BLS annual Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates are establishment data (i.e., collected from employers) and include all drivers employed by firms, while its Employment Projections are generated from household surveys and, unlike the former, include self-employed drivers (see table below). In both cases, BLS separates truck drivers into three groups. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers hold CDLs, and most drivers with hazardous materials endorsements are likely to be within this group. The other two groups of drivers do not necessarily hold CDLs, because the trucks or vans they drive are under 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. However, if they transport hazardous materials shipments, they are required to have a CDL with the endorsement. Based on the 1:4 ratio of endorsed CDLs to total CDL records in CDLIS, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that between 500,000 and 600,000 truck drivers could be transporting hazardous materials.
|Occupational employment and wage estimates||Employment projections|
|Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer (SOC 53-3032)||1,577,070||1,749,270|
|Truck drivers, light or delivery services (SOC 53-3033)||1,033,220||1,116,862|
|Driver/sales workers (SOC 53-3031)1||373,660||401,764|
1 According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Standard Occupation Code, Driver/Sales Workers (SOC 53-3031) ". . . drive a truck or other vehicle over established routes or within an established territory and sell goods, such as food products, including restaurant take-out items, or pick up and deliver items, such as laundry." As such, they may transport hazardous materials.
KEY: SOC = standard occupation code.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "2000 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Transportation and Material Moving Occupations," Occupational Employment Statistics, available at http://www.bls.gov/oes/2000/oes_53Tr.htm, as of February 2002.
_____. "2000-10 National Employment Matrix, detailed occupation by industry," Employment Projections, available at http://www.bls.gov/emp/empoils.htm, as of February 2002.