Transportation Economic Trends

Employment in Transportation:

Transportation Economic Concepts

This page highlights transportation economic concepts related to transportation employment.

Measuring Transportation Employment

Current statistics provide us with two ways to measure employment in transportation: (1) employment in transportation and related industries and (2) employment in transportation occupations. The former captures persons working in any occupation in a transportation or related industry for example, truck drivers and administrative staff employed by the trucking industry. The latter counts only those who work in a transportation occupation but in all industries— not just transportation and related industries.
The two measures are not mutually exclusive. Persons employed in transportation occupations may work in a transportation industry (e.g., truckers working in the trucking trade) or a related industry (e.g., employees working for a tire manufacturer). However, persons employed in transportation occupations may be employed in unrelated industries (e.g., truck drivers employed by a retail chain).

Transportation industries refers to industries in the for-hire transportation and warehousing sector, such as air, rail, water, and truck transportation.
Transportation-related industries refers to related industries outside the sector, such as motor vehicle parts manufacturing and Federal and State Departments of Transportation. Below is a list of all transportation and related industries included in estimated employment in transportation and related industries.
Transportation and warehousing
  • Air transportation
  • Rail transportation
  • Truck transportation
  • Water transportation
  • Pipeline transportation
  • Transit and ground passenger transportation
  • Scenic and sightseeing transportation
  • Support activities for transportation
  • Warehousing
Transportation-related manufacturing
  • Petroleum and coal products manufacturing
  • Tire manufacturing
  • Rubber and plastic hoses and belting manufacturing
  • Search, detection, navigation, guidance, aeronautical, and nautical system and instrument manufacturing
  • Transportation equipment manufacturing
Other transportation-related industries
  • Highway, street, and bridge construction
  • Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and supplies merchant wholesalers
  • Transportation equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers
  • Petroleum and petroleum products merchant wholesalers
  • Motor vehicle parts dealers
  • Automobile dealers
  • Gasoline stations
  • Automotive equipment rental and leasing
  • Travel arrangement and reservation services
  • Automotive repair and maintenance
  • Parking lots and garages
  • Postal service
  • Federal and State Departments of Transportation

How is a Sector Different from an Industry?

The term "sector" refers to a group of industries. For example, the transportation and warehousing sector includes multiple industries, which are listed below.

Transportation and Warehousing Sector

The transportation and warehousing sector (North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS 48-49) includes air transportation, water transportation, truck transportation, transit and ground passenger transportation, pipeline transportation, scenic and sightseeing transportation, support activities for transportation (e.g., air traffic control and marine cargo handling), postal service, couriers and messengers, and warehousing and storage. It does not include government, railroad transportation, or self-employed persons.
Air transportation (NAICS 481) includes industries providing air transportation of passengers and cargo using aircraft, such as airplanes and helicopters. It does not include scenic and sightseeing air transportation, support activities for air transportation, or air courier services.
Water transportation (NAICS 483) includes industries providing water transportation of passengers and cargo using water craft, such as ships, barges, and boats. It does not include scenic and sightseeing water transportation services or support activities for water transportation.
Truck transportation (NAICS 484) includes industries providing over-the-road transportation of cargo using motor vehicles, such as trucks and tractor trailers. It does not include support activities for road transportation, freight transportation arrangement services, the Postal Service (covered in NAICS 491), or courier services.
Transit and ground passenger transportation (NAICS 485) includes industries providing a variety of passenger transportation activities, such as urban transit systems; chartered bus, school bus, and interurban bus transportation; and taxis. It does not include scenic and sightseeing transportation, support activities for road transportation, or arrangement for car pools and vanpools.
Pipeline transportation (NAICS 486) includes industries using transmission pipelines to transport products, such as crude oil, natural gas, refined petroleum products, and slurry. It does not include activities classified as utilities, such as natural gas distribution or water and air distribution and collection.
Warehousing (NAICS 493) includes industries primarily engaged in storing general merchandise, refrigerated goods, and other warehouse products. They do not sell the goods they handle. They may additionally provide a range of services, often referred to as logistics services, related to the distribution of goods.

What are Transportation Occupations?

Transportation occupations include:
Vehicle operators, pipeline operators, and primary support occupations
  • Airline pilots, copilots, flight engineers, and
  • Commercial pilots*
  • Air traffic controllers
  • Airfield operations specialists
  • Ambulance drivers and attendants, except emergency medical technicians
  • Bus drivers, transit and intercity
  • Bus drivers, school
  • Driver/sales workers
  • Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
  • Truck drivers, light or delivery services
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
  • Locomotive engineers
  • Locomotive firers
  • Rail yard engineers, dinkey operators, and hostlers
  • Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators
  • Railroad conductors and yardmasters
  • Subway and street car operators
  • Sailors and marine oilers
  • Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels
  • Motorboat operators
  • Ship engineers
  • Bridge and lock tenders
  • Gas compressor and gas pumping station operators
  • Pump operators, except wellhead pumpers
Secondary support service occupations
  • Insurance appraisers, auto damage
  • Parking enforcement workers
  • Transit and railroad police
  • Crossing guards
  • Travel guides
  • Flight attendants
  • Transportation attendants, except flight attendants and baggage porters
  • Travel agents
  • Reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks
  • Couriers and messengers
  • Dispatchers, except police, fire, and ambulance
  • Postal service mail carriers
  • Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks
  • Parking lot attendants
  • Traffic technicians
  • Transportation inspectors
  • Refuse and recyclable material collectors
  • Tank car, truck, and ship loaders
Transportation equipment manufacturing and maintenance occupations
  • Aerospace engineers
  • Marine engineers and naval architects
  • Aerospace engineering and operations technicians
  • Avionics technicians
  • Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment
  • Electronic equipment installers and repairers, motor vehicles
  • Aircraft mechanics and service technicians
  • Automotive body and related repairers
  • Automotive glass installers and repairers
  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics
  • Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists
  • Rail car repairers
  • Motorboat mechanics
  • Motorcycle mechanics
  • Bicycle repairers
  • Recreational vehicle service technicians
  • Tire repairers and changers
  • Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers
  • Painters, transportation equipment
  • Tire builders
  • Automotive and watercraft service
  • Attendants
  • Cleaners of vehicles and equipment
Transportation infrastructure construction and maintenance occupations
  • Paving, surfacing, and tamping equipment operators
  • Highway maintenance workers
  • Rail-track laying and maintenance equipment operators
  • Signal and track switch repairers
  • Dredge operators 
Other occupations
  • Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
  • Aircraft cargo handling supervisors
  • First-line supervisors/managers of helpers, laborers, and material movers, hand
  • First-line supervisors/managers of transportation and material-moving machine and vehicle operators
* Commercial pilots include charter pilots, air ambulance pilots, and air tour pilots. 
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics selected these occupations based on a broad definition of transportation and transportation-related occupations found in Sen, B. and M. Rossetti, "A Complete Count of the U.S. Transportation Workforce," Transportation Research Record 1719: 2000, pp 259–266.

Data Sources on Transportation Employment and Workforce Characteristics


Recommended citation
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at www.bts.gov/product/transportation-economic-trends.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multimodal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation.