September 2018 The Roemer Report

Trucking’s Big Beautiful Picture

With Labor Day in the rear-view mirror and economic data remaining strong, it’s a safe bet that for most Americans the summer was a pretty good one. It seems like just about everybody’s Facebook and Instagram pages are filled with families and friends enjoying life; camping, hiking, biking, golfing, skiing, RV-ing, boating, swimming, eating, drinking and much more. Americans have been busy spending plenty of fresh disposable income with vigor on the pursuit of happiness; you know, all those things that bring people and families together.

Somebody has to bring all stuff we need to fuel the fun and the“feels” as the kids put it these days, and as always, the American trucking industry Delivers. How big of a role does the industry play in the U.S. economy? Freight and logistics information Web portal Freightwaves, which is always offering something compelling and informative with their data and analysis, recently painted a sweeping portrait of the industry, publishing big-picture data of the industry in an infographic released mid-August.

It’s Huge

According to Freightwaves’ Trevor Willingham, “The U.S. trucking industry is huge. It moves billions of tons of freight and employs millions of people each year.” That seems obvious, but how big is huge? President Trump HUUUGE in fact, and in the infographic “Breaking Down the U.S. Trucking Industry,” the numbers tell a great story and reflect and image of sustainable economic energy and health.

Citing data from 2015 Freightwaves finds U.S. Trucking is responsible for more than 7.4 million jobs, a number likely to push higher as economy’s dynamic trends continue. What kind of money does it take to generate those employment numbers? Try $700 Billion. That’s a big number; ATA’s data agrees and clearly its trucks carrying the load.

Offering his big-picture view, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear says "Information, when presented properly and accurately, tells a story. The information … highlights exactly what I tell elected officials, regulators and key decision-makers every day: trucking is literally the driving force behind our great economy. Safe, reliable and efficient motor carriers enable businesses throughout the supply chain to maintain lean inventories, thereby saving the economy billions of dollars each year."

Among the findings in this year's edition of ATA Trends:

  • Trucks moved 10.77 billion tons of freight, 70.2% of all domestic freight tonnage;
  • The industry generated $700.1 billion in annual revenue in 2017, 79.3% of the nation's freight bill;
  • The industry moved 69.1% of all trade between the U.S. and Mexico, and 57.7% of Canada-U.S. trade;
  • Roughly 7.7 million people were employed in jobs related to trucking activity, including 3.5 million drivers;
  • Of those 3.5 million drivers, there were 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer drivers. Minorities account for 40.6% of all drivers and 6.2% of truck drivers are women.

That’s a lot of activity, but trucking’s momentum is clear and it is an engine pulling a number of heavy economic loads across U.S. industry. Freightwaves analysis says there are 3.6 million class 8 trucks on the road today. The industry is sustaining at least seven truck brands, and while one manufacturer dominates with nearly 40% of sales, the prospects of the industry’s most memorable and lasting brands are stronger than they have been for a long time. Let’s not forget all the rest that follows this supply chain which includes everything from steel for truck frames to the box those Yosemite Sam “Back Off” mud flaps come in.

"Trucking is a critical part of the economy and the supply chain," notes ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, finding that ATA’s Trends data "allows policymakers and business leaders to see just how big that impact is while debating key issues like trade, infrastructure investment, workforce development and tax policy."

Negating Nabobs of Negativity

Put all those images together and a bigger picture emerges, suggesting that a renewed sense of positivity and optimism. Recent reports tell us that U.S. trucking is expanding as the demand for shipping truck-born freight climbs to reflect an economy generating 3 to 4 percent growth.

But don’t look to the media to help sustain USA’s economic momentum by publishing positive data and other information that might serve to inform and support growing and sustaining our country’s commercial/industrial output; and offer an honest “picture” to U.S. businesses and consumers. As one U.S. president said we have to resist the “nattering nabobs of negativity.” Regrettably, most of them seem to be in the media these days.

Plug your ears and go La-la-la.

Whatever the legacy print and broadcast media’s agenda is, it most obviously is missing the big picture and that is the real shame. Apparently, much of the country (especially in the flyover states) has put its collective fingers in its collective ears, while singing La-la-la. Americans are not listening. Many are actively ignoring these messages as so much “noise.”

With GDP projections and the stock market’s relative stability pushing investment, folks are apparently planning to do all those great things that drive our economy—which many understand drives the world’s fortunes to better places as well. Where do you think Germany sells most all its cars anyway? In the U. S. of A, of course.

Despite the noise, the President’s economic agenda is being clearly heard and it’s having real impact. Trade jitters were all the rage in June and July, but by August that nervous dog had no bark left and in spite of a lot of gnashing of teeth, it looks like there’s not much bite either. That is now that our lead dog is paving the way for NAFTA reform just announced with Mexico.

Throughout time, artists and their artistic vision have been criticized. “This is not Art” they cry. Although the artist now occupying the Pennsylvania Avenue studio may be perceived as a bit eccentric, he’s painting a more vibrant U.S. economic landscape with each stroke. At last there is some big-picture economic thinking in the Whitehouse and the trucking industry is shipping our leadership the pallet, the brushes and more canvas to paint an even bigger and brighter picture.