It’s a version of the American dream, Peters, a lifelong self-described Republican, has faith President-elect Donald Trump will protect for future generations of truck drivers and other working-class Americans like him.
“He understands the working class man out here, he worked his ass off to get where he is today,” Peters, 48, said in a phone interview with International Business Times.
Truck driving, one of the most common working-class job in Trump’s economy, brings good pay and doesn’t require a college degree. As it stands, there are about 3.4 million total truck drivers in the country and 7.1 million people employed in jobs related to trucking activity, according to a 2015 report from the American Trucking Associations. A widely circulated NPR graphic last year showed that truck driver was the most common job in more than half of U.S. states, in part because of how the bureau of labor statistics sorts common jobs, such as educators, into smaller groups. The Labor Department pegs the median salary for tractor-trailer drivers at $40,260.
Roughly 73 percent of all commercial drivers were white, although ethnic minorities have increasingly entered the trucking field, industry news outlet Transport Topics reported in late 2014. Less than five percent of drivers were women.
That means in all, truckers largely resemble Trump’s most important bloc of voters, white men who are working class but not among the poorest Americans. Truck drivers, in turn, largely voted for Trump, according to reports and anecdotal evidence. John Pagotto, 75, has been driving a truck for more than half-a-century and said the chatter on CB radios long suggested truckers were going for Trump like he was.
Pagotto, a self-described Democrat, supported the candidate, in part, for his tough talk and promise to put “America first.” “I’ve sat in the truck stops up and down the East Coast and everywhere you hear, ‘Trump is the man, Trump is the man,'” he said. Pagotto’s boss Jim Barrett, 65, runs Road Scholar Transport, a trucking company headquartered in Pennsylvania.
Barrett, also a longtime self-described Democrat, switched parties and voted for Trump for a number of reasons, including the fact that the candidate was anti-establishment and promised to do away with Obamacare, which Barrett called “unaffordable to the working world.” Analysts have worried that Trump’s tax policy, paired with his anti-globalism trade policies and financial deregulation, could trigger a recession.
Trump’s planned tax cuts also won’t do much for low-income families but will help the richest Americans. All of this would be very hard on truckers, who are largely a part of the working and middle classes. Trump did, however, propose massive spending on infrastructure, a favorite pledge among truckers.
The American Trucking Associations, which boasts more than 37,000 members, said it was pleased with Trump’s promised 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure package. But that infrastructure plan likely faces tough congressional scrutiny and might take years to show any real impact.
A man poses for a selfie in front of a truck bearing the image of then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before a campaign rally in Syracuse, New York, Even if Congress spends more on roads, robots, not humans, could soon drive the trucks rumbling down America’s highways and main roads. Autonomous cars have already taken to the roads, and projections indicate there could be 10 million on the road by the end of Trump’s first term.
Fully automated trucks could put 1.7 million truckers out of a job within the decade, the L.A. Times reported this year.