ATS Transportation Blog

    The Pros and Cons of a Career In The Transportation Industry

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    It can be argued that a good career is found at the intersection of four things: a passion for the role you fill; the technical ability to get the job done; the freedom to express your creativity, skills and values and a feeling that your work is meaningful — making an impact on a larger organization and the world around you. 

    Without one of these things, clocking in gets more difficult. A job without multiple, though, can feel burdensome — forcing employees to either tough it out, adopt an attitude of nonchalance or leave. 

    As you begin your job search, you’ll want to ensure that the position you choose will check each of these boxes, and more. 

    But, due to technology’s influence, the job market has never been more saturated than it is today. And, as a result, struggling to find a good fit has become all too common for job seekers across the globe

    With so many options to choose from, and few things (outside of pay) differentiating them, it’s ok if you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused. 

    That said, choosing a good career doesn’t need to leave you feeling stranded. There are plenty of great jobs out there; jobs that will fill your bucket, jobs that will leave you feeling appreciated and excited to tackle each day. 

    Breaking your search down, industry by industry, is a great place to start this journey. 

    Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’ve been a leading member of the transportation industry since 1955. During this time, we’ve hired countless job seekers and watched many of them thrive in the business of keeping supply chains running. 

    In this article, we’ll break down the pros and cons of a career in the transportation industry, an industry that many people simply fail to consider during their career search. 

    And, although this industry is certainly not for everyone, to the right person, a job in transportation can become an excellent career home. 

    Below, we’ll give you the information you’ll need to make this discernment, including:

    What Are The Disadvantages of Working in the Transportation Industry?

    For this discussion, let’s start with the downsides. I know, this might seem unconventional but when it comes to your career, you don’t have any time to waste.

    Up to this point, however, it’s been easy for companies to beat around the bush, to shake off your questions — especially when they’re about the cons of working for them. Although the transportation industry is a great fit for many people, opening up doors to opportunity (sometimes two at a time) the top disadvantages of working within it, in no particular order, are:

    1. The transportation marketplace is dynamic
    2. Transportation is a competitive business
    3. Income volatility exists in some positions
    4. External elements can influence success
    5. Higher-than-average turnover
    6. Meeting customer expectations can be challenging

    #1: The Transportation Marketplace is Dynamic

    As a rule, transportation is ever-changing. Fuel prices shift, market rates change, rules and regulations fluctuate and shortages, stoppages and time-crunches occur. 

    For many, the duty-elasticity and unpredictability of a role in the transportation world are exciting, motivating them to press on, learn quickly and think on their feet. 

    Others face a different reality. Instead of leaning in and tackling this ever-changing industry head-on, it’s not uncommon for people — particularly those in customer-facing roles — to feel overwhelmed. And, if you’re a person who appreciates steadfast predictability in a job, you may want to look elsewhere

    Without proper planning, great training and a finger on the pulse of the transportation market, stress can become a close companion of those in logistics jobs. 

    Sure, accounting, human resources, finance and other administrative roles are a bit more stable. But transportation’s ebbs and flows impact people in all positions — necessitating a fleet-footed individual in each of them. 

    Transportation Career Openings Button

    #2: Transportation is a Competitive Business

    There are few businesses as competitive as transportation. As an essential piece of every supply chain and business, selling transportation services is a lucrative endeavor — a fact that’s recognized by many. And boy, do I mean many. 

    In the U.S. alone, there are a ton of different transportation providers (freight brokers, 3pls and trucking companies) each claiming to do their job better than the field. 

    If you were to poll 60 percent of transportation companies, I’m willing to wager that they’d all rank themselves among the top 20 percent. 

    Unfortunately, some quick math tells me that the reality of this is. . . well, impossible. 

    Step-deck-truck-trailer

    No, gracing the list of “The best in the transportation business” is difficult — making it crucial that operations employees work hard, sales professionals overperform and administrative workers stay on top of things.

    Underperformance in any one position has the potential to topple the success of an entire department, division and company. In such a competitive business, the success of the individual directly impacts the success of the larger corporation

    For this reason, should you decide transportation is the industry for you, be prepared to push yourself, to be held accountable for the duties you’re responsible for and to work hard every day.

    #3: Income Volatility Exists in Some Positions 

    Having a reliable, straight-up paycheck is valuable for many people. Not to say this won’t be available to you in the transportation world; many people (particularly those in administrative positions) are given a set hourly/salary compensation. 

    However, transportation’s volatility can sometimes impact commission-incentivized employees. With so many elements out of their control — supply, demand, fuel prices, truck and trailer maintenance costs, insurance rates — it can be difficult for sales and operations employees to earn a predictable commission.

    stack-of-income-dollars

    Even though the vast majority of transportation professionals earn a base salary on top of their sales commission, volatility often exists and should be noted

    If you’re a person who appreciates a solidified, dependable monthly income you may want to steer clear of these commissioned roles or select another industry entirely. 

    #4: External Elements Can Influence Success

    In any industry, there will be things you can’t control. Retail employees may be required to work weekends, steelworkers the night shift. A job in the transportation industry can be frustrating in some of the same ways. 

    In the end, everyone wants to be successful. That said, in a job where your success depends greatly on the performance of your coworkers, sometimes logistics employees meet unique barriers along the way

    For example, in a traditional freight brokerage setting, logistics sales representatives rely heavily on their operations counterparts and vice versa. Without accurately pricing the cost of their service, sales reps can often hinder their operations department’s ability to follow through on the commitments they’ve made. 

    In these situations, when a logistics sales rep’s promise fails to match their ability to follow through, customer relationships and take-home commissions can be damaged. 

    Beyond this, the unpredictability of things like the weather, construction and truck breakdowns (to name a few) sometimes play a role in a logistics company’s ability to hold its commitments. Instead of coming through for customers in accordance with their timelines every time, it’s not uncommon for unexpected things to pull service levels off track and hinder an employee’s ability to get ahead. 

    #5: Logistics Has Higher Than Average Turnover

    Recently, turnover rates have surged across industries as people look to adjust their livelihoods and careers to the world around them. Although historically industries like hospitality, retail and accommodation/food services boast turnover rates well above the average (ranging between 54-130 percent year-over-year) transportation is close behind them. 

    In an article published by Zippia — a premier resource for job seekers, loaded with collections of career-related statistics — the average turnover rate across industries in 2020 was 57.3 percent. 

    That same year, transportation’s turnover rested at 59 percent.

    This rate of turnover, which can be attributed to the high learning curve and relatively low earnings offered by the first few months in commission-incentivized positions, coupled with the growing pull of work-from-home enterprises, may dissuade you from a career in this industry. 

    However, it should be noted that data (also reported by Zippia) shows that companies with strong, effective onboarding training/procedures see these turnover rates decline by more than 90 percent. 

    So, if you’re interested in the upsides of working in transportation, make sure to select a great company and ask them about their onboarding training program. 

    #6: Meeting Customer Expectations Can Be Challenging

    At the end of the day, transporting freight is simply another expense that companies weather. So, as you might imagine, shippers are heavily price-driven. If they’re able to save some money by taking their business elsewhere, regardless of how many loads you’ve successfully moved for them, many businesses will do so. 

    For this reason, in the eyes of potential customers, many transportation professionals find it difficult to separate themselves from the price tags they boast. Although communicating the value of working with them over the competition, and the reasoning behind a higher price, can help here, this is a common challenge industry professionals face. 

    What Are The Advantages of Working in The Transportation Industry?

    Now that you understand the potential downsides of working in the transportation industry, you may be left wondering, “This seems tough, why in the world would anyone choose to work in transportation?

    Good question. Based on what you know this is a fair conclusion to make. It stands to reason that there must be a solid set of advantages to working in logistics, a shiny flip side of this coin, and there are. . . 

    Here are the top advantages of starting a career in the transportation industry:

    1. The potential to earn an above-average income
    2. Logistics is a fast-growing, high-demand industry
    3. Work-life balance is achievable 
    4. Working in transportation is rewarding
    5. Every day in logistics is fast-paced, new and exciting
    6. Transportation professionals receive constant training and education

    #1: The Potential to Earn an Above-Average Income

    The U.S. transportation industry is one of the largest and highest-grossing industries in the country. Nearly $1 trillion of freight is moved around the nation every year. 

    With this much demand — a demand which can’t be ignored or serviced elsewhere — comes plenty of earning potential for great logistics companies

    In turn, profitable businesses — which in transportation earn more even in the most volatile of times — can trickle revenue down to their employees in the form of raises, bonuses, 401k matches and heightened commission percentages

    These profits impact the yearly compensation of all employees across divisions and not just sales professionals alone. As such, if you’re looking for a job in accounting, information technology or human resources you’ll likely find higher base pay ranges in the transportation industry. 

    #2: Logistics is a Fast-Growing, High-Demand Industry

    As previously stated, the transportation industry is responsible for managing the movement of a massive quantity of cargo each year. 

    From food and beverage goods and manufacturing products to agriculture equipment and retail commodities, every single product used to keep America’s supply chains running falls under the logistics industry’s domain. 

    For the workers filling these roles, this incessant demand translates to long-term job security — particularly for high performers. 

    If you value job security and want to work in an industry that will always be needed and impactful, give transportation a try. 

    #3: Work-Life Balance is Achievable 

    Many companies that move freight close up shop between 4 and 5 p.m. each day. As the party that arranges these transportation services, people in logistics sales/operations roles are typically able to follow suit — clocking in between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. and rarely staying later. 

    Although some of these workers may need to remain “on-call” to communicate with drivers/shippers on occasion, in the vast majority of cases working in transportation allows time for life outside of the office. 

    logistics-sales-representative

    For people in administrative roles at logistics companies, work-life balance is achieved as easily as it is in other industries. 

    At the end of the day, as long as you’re on top of your work, you should have no problem with work-life balance issues in the transportation business. 


    Related: What is Work-Life Balance Like as a Logistics Sales Professional? (+ Tips For Achieving it)


    #4: Working In Transportation Is Rewarding

    You’ll rarely feel like the work you’re doing is for naught in a transportation career. 

    Helping American businesses thrive is about as rewarding as it comes. Without the transportation world’s assistance, stores would run out of products in a matter of days, inflation would quickly rise and prices across the board would skyrocket. 

    As such, the people in the transportation industry can rest easy each night knowing they truly made a difference. Because of the work logistics professionals do, refrigerators are full, store shelves are brimming and local/national infrastructure is consistently improving. 

    Finding a rewarding career and making a consistent impact is one of the things job seekers prioritize in their search. Transportation is just another place for them to find it. 

    #5: Every Day in Logistics is New, Fast-Paced and Exciting

    Look, a position in logistics will never be underwhelming, boring or stale. Every day presents a new challenge to solve. For this reason, transportation jobs attract a lot of attention from problem solvers in every walk of life. 

    Instead of sitting at a desk each day accomplishing mundane, repetitive tasks, most logistics roles ask employees to lean into new situations and think “outside of the box” throughout them. 

    Tight deadlines and difficult decisions will come fast and heavy in nearly every position available to logistics professionals. But don’t let this intimidate you. With the assistance of the team around you and experienced leadership, you’ll learn as you go and continually optimize processes over time

    #6: Transportation Professionals Receive Consistent Training and Education 

    This final advantage is sometimes undervalued. You see, in order to keep up with the demanding pace of logistics — and the large pool of competitors they face — transportation companies are motivated to have the best employees possible in every role. 

    To do so, great companies make investments in each employee in the form of continued education and training. If you’re looking to expand your professional skillset and add to your arsenal of knowledge over time, transportation is a great industry to get into. 

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    Not only will you learn the hard skills associated with your job — like the intricacies of freight pricing (for salespeople) — but you’ll also develop perseverance, problem-solving and other soft skills that will benefit you for the rest of your professional journey.  

    Interested In a Logistics Career?

    With these pros and cons in mind, you probably have a good idea of whether pursuing a career in logistics is worth pursuing. As I’ve mentioned above, this industry is brimming with unique opportunities for professional growth, personal earnings and long-term success. 

    If you’re interested in giving this industry a go, you’ll find that one of your largest opportunities will be to start out in a sales role. To give you insight into what you should expect initially in a logistics sales position, check out our article on The Pros and Cons of a Commission-Incentivized Sales Career in Transportation

    Make sure to give it a read as this article is full of information to help you set expectations for what a sales position would mean. 

    Also, here at ATS, we have a variety of openings — in sales and many other areas — in multiple locations across the U.S. 

    Check out our open positions today! We’d be happy to discuss how ATS can become your next career home.

    Tags: Asset-Based Carrier, Career Resources

    Megan Miller

    Written by Megan Miller

    Megan started her journey with ATS in 2015 as the first full-time recruiter for ATS Logistics. Today, as the lead talent and engagement specialist, Megan focuses on developing recruiting strategies to support the hiring needs of ATS' fast-growing organization. Working with colleagues she now calls friends, Megan supports her team as they match job candidates with the positions that will allow them to reach their full potential while exploring their passions and enjoying what they do.

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