This chapter provides an overview of the contribution of the utilities sector to the economy and the use of transportation by the sector. The utilities sector consists of establishments providing electric power, natural gas, steam supply, water supply, and sewage removal. Electric power includes generation, transmission, and distribution; natural gas includes distribution; steam supply includes provision and/or distribution; water supply includes treatment and distribution; and sewage removal includes collection, treatment, and disposal of waste through sewer systems and sewage treatment facilities.1
The utilities sector uses less transportation services than all other sectors in absolute dollars, but per dollar of output requires slightly more transportation services than most other sectors. The sector uses more dollars of pipeline transportation than any other mode. The utilities sector employs the largest number of workers as heavy tractor-trailer truck drivers.
In 2015 the utilities sector contributed $288.3 billion (1.6 percent) to the national economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) (figure 3-1). The sector contributed the least to the economy but generates and distributes the energy other sectors need to produce goods and services.
The largest amount of activity in the utilities sector occurred in Texas ($30.9 billion), followed by California ($29.1 billion), New York ($19.7 billion), Florida ($15.3 billion), Ohio ($13.3 billion), Illinois ($12.5 billion), and Pennsylvania ($11.7 billion)—each of which accounted for 4 percent or more of national activity in the utilities sector in 2015 (figure 3-2, table 3-2). The States contributing the most to national activity in utilities are States with large gross state product (GSP) (table 3-2).
Computing the percent of utilities activity as a percent of a GSP, rather than as a share of GDP, also provides useful insights to U.S. production. Texas, California, New York, Florida, and Ohio lead in the production of utilities in 2015. Utilities, however, accounted for a small share (2.2 percent or less) of GSP in each of these States in 2015. Utilities accounted for the largest share of GSP in Mississippi (2.9 percent or $3.1 billion) (see Appendix A).
The utilities sector was the smallest user of transportation services in 2014 ($19.2 billion). The utilities sector relies heavily on for-hire transportation services— using more for-hire air, rail, truck, and water transportation services ($4.2 billion) than in-house transportation operations ($0.9 billion). The sector’s use of for-hire air, rail, truck, and water transportation services, however, is smaller than the sector’s use of pipeline transportation ($7.3 billion) and transportation-related support activities ($6.9 billion) (figure 3-3).
The utilities sector used $19.2 billion of transportation services in 2014 (figure 3-3). In 2014 the sector used:
- Primarily pipeline transportation (37.8 percent, or $7,262 million) (e.g., used to distribute natural gas and move waste through sewer systems) and transportation-related support activities (32.6 percent, or $6,270 million) (e.g., used to maintain and repair pipelines). Pipeline transportation and transportation-related support activities accounted for 70.4 percent ($13,532 million) of the total amount of transportation services used by the utilities sector.
- For-hire air, rail, truck, and water transportation services (used, for instance, to move coal to electric generating plants operating on coal) summing to 18.9 percent ($3,626 million) of the total amount of transportation services used by the sector.
- More in-house truck transportation operations than for-hire truck transportation services. In-house truck transportation operations comprised 4.5 percent ($867 million) of the total amount of transportation services used by the sector, while for-hire truck transportation accounted for 2.8 percent ($537 million).
- No measureable amount of in-house air, rail, or water transportation operations.
- A smaller amount of for-hire transit and ground passenger transportation (e.g., bus transportation purchased for workers) (0.6 percent, or $111 million) than any other transportation mode (figure 3-4).
The utilities sector used the least amount of transportation services in 2014 but ranked as the third most dependent sector on transportation, requiring slightly more transportation services than the average amount needed to produce one dollar of output. In 2014, the utilities sector required 4.6¢ worth of transportation services to produce one dollar of output, while the most dependent sector (wholesale and retail trade) required 9.9¢ worth of transportation services to produce one dollar of output. The utilities sector relied heavily on for-hire transportation services in 2014, requiring 4.4¢ worth of for-hire transportation services (primarily pipeline and transportation-related support activities). The sector required a modest amount of in-house operations (0.2¢) to produce one dollar of output (figure 3-5).
The overall transportation requirement for the utilities sector (4.6¢) is relatively modest compared to other inputs. In 2014 transportation services ranked as the fourth most important input. Natural resources and mining products (e.g., coal, petroleum, etc.) ranked as most important input. The utilities sector required 10.4¢ worth of natural resources and mining products to produce one dollar of output (figure 3-6).
In 2015 the utilities sector employed nearly 10 thousand transportation and material moving workers, accounting for 1.8 percent of its entire work force. The sector employed more material moving workers (6,340) than transportation workers (3,550)2 (figure 3-7). Transportation workers include motor vehicle operators, ship engineers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, etc. Material moving workers support transportation activities and include occupations such as cleaners of vehicles and ship loaders.
Transportation and material moving workers in the utilities sector earned a median wage of $51,040 in 2015, while workers of all occupations in the utilities industry earned a higher median wage ($70,020) (figure 3-8).
The utilities sector employed the largest number of transportation workers as heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (1,850), followed by light truck or delivery services drivers (480) and first-line supervisors of transportation and material moving and vehicle operators (460). Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned a higher median wage ($44,090) than light truck or delivery services drivers ($31,140) but significantly less than first-line supervisors ($71,010). First-line supervisors earned a higher median wage than all transportation and material moving workers and a slightly higher median wage than all utilities workers. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers and light truck or delivery services drivers earned less than the sector median wage (figure 3-8).
The 2002 Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) is the most recent survey of vehicle ownership and use by industry. According to the 2002 VIUS, the utilities industry operated, at 0.7 million, fewer trucks than many other industries and accumulated fewer miles (10.2 billion) (figure 3-9).
1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industries at a Glance, , as of September 1, 2015.
2 Total for transportation occupations includes supervisors of material moving workers, which could not be separated from supervisors of transportation workers.