HDNet's 'Dan Rather Reports' Hits the Road With Big Rig Truckers

Tomorrow's program is the latest installment in a series of stories on the trucking industry - Tuesday, June 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET

Jun 07, 2010, 16:07 ET from HDNet

DALLAS, June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Tuesday night's "Dan Rather Reports" takes to the highway to look inside the business of big rig trucking, and how the long haul life – that used to be lucrative and adventurous – is now one in which long and arduous weeks are spent away from home and the truckers are barely able to pay for the rigs they are driving.

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"I haven't been home for two and a half months," said Richard Ulrich, an independent trucker who spoke to "Dan Rather Reports." "I have to work twice as hard now to make the money that I made 30 years ago to support my family."

Due to deregulation in the trucking industry, things have changed for drivers.  In 2005, the average trucker was earning just over $35,000 a year, down more than 30 percent from 1980.  For independents, the average take home was $22,000.

"Dan Rather Reports" rode shotgun through five states and three time zones on a real-life run with Don Wagner, a long haul trucker from Nevada.

Wagner, a small businessman who got into trucking later in life, loves the job, but he's scrambling more and more and earning less and less. At this point, he's just trying to do everything he can to keep his big rig business afloat.

Like most truckers, Don Wagner gets paid by the mile. When his wheels aren't turning, he's not making any money, but his bills are piling up.  His wife Leslie stays behind and runs the home office of Wagner's Trucking. Day after day, she stakes out the computer -- trying to book hauls for Don using electronic want ads for truckers called load boards.

"I turn [the computer] on as soon as I get up in the morning," Leslie Wagner told us.  "Because if a good load comes and he's in an area that hard to get out of – you have literally two minutes to call and make contact."

So, who is making all the money in this 650 billion dollar business?

Big corporate middlemen and Wall Street investors are banking the big profits in this world of nearly two million big rigs moving more than ten billion tons of freight each year.  In this high-volume, low-margin business, it's a cut-throat contest of more than 200,000 trucking companies and some 12,000 middle men known as freight brokers.

"Dan Rather Reports – Haul or High Water" airs Tuesday, June 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET and will re-air at 11:00 p.m. ET to accommodate West Coast Prime Time.

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