Half-full or Half-empty?

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Updated Mar 15, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of all the trucking gloom-and-doom-related forecasts. Experts say there’s a used truck glut, fuel is up, freight is soft, rates are downright mushy and the trucking industry, like its twin brother, the Dotcom industry, is in the toilet.

However, in the revised words of Mark Twain, the death of trucking has been greatly exaggerated. There are bright spots, and truckers tough enough to ride out the current hard times will still be moving freight across America while economists continue to wring their hands.

“The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.”

– George Will

In spite of dire predictions for low attendance at the Mid-America Trucking Show held in March in Louisville, Ky., Tim Young, president of Exhibit Management Associates Inc., which produces MATS, said he was pleasantly surprised that attendance was slightly up over last year.

The buoyant gathering of 76,556 attendees under one roof portrayed the exact opposite of what many predicted would be a lackluster turn out. Young said the exhibitors were pleased with the turnout and the quality of serious shoppers.

“Things will probably come out all right, but sometimes it takes strong nerves just to watch.”

– Hedley Donovan

Research conducted by the Randall Trucking Media Group shows that many truckers are displaying remarkable resilience in coping with factors like fuel and insurance price increases, mechanic shortages, depressed used truck values and burdensome regulations. In fact, when asked how they plan to cope with the current economy, 9 percent said they would get out of trucking, 2 percent said they would change carriers and a whopping 86 percent said they would “gut it out.”

“I will say this about being an optimist – even when things don’t turn out well, you are certain they will get better.”

– Frank Hughes

Expensive fuel and a slowing economy’s effect on freight have been a factor in the declining growth of the owner-operator population. However, 29 percent of owner-operators plan to buy a new or used truck during 2001. This is as good as historical averages and clearly shows a positive attitude during a period of economic turmoil.

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While the driver shortage has leveled off, our data shows that 38 percent of the trucking companies we surveyed are seeing an increase in driver applications.

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

– Herm Albright

So what does the research say about the future, and what is there about it to annoy all the doomsayers? Plenty. The editors at Randall Publishing Company presented a list of their predictions for an optimistic future.

  • Freight demand will increase.
  • The owner-operator segment will grow as companies expand to meet demand.
  • Trucking companies will continue to spec their trucks with bells and whistles to attract and retain drivers.
  • Economic strength and reduced interest rates will trigger relaxed credit.
  • Used trucks will start to be reabsorbed before new trucks show appreciable sales.
  • Company drivers will dwindle, reviving the driver shortage.
  • Trucking companies will demand an increase in technology options such as improved communication, automated transmissions and big-power engines.
    We don’t have a crystal ball, but neither are we just shooting from the hip. Truckers are an optimistic bunch, shippers aren’t going to transfer freight to scooters or rowboats and the American consumer’s insatiable appetite for consumer goods is not going to go away.