Wednesday, June 3, 2009

No rose-colored glasses in trucking

There seems to be a disconnect among a number of fortunate folks regarding the state of the economy, one that probably most truckers and trucking executives don’t share.

The disconnect is phrased like this: “We see planes full, lots of people at restaurants, parking lot at Wal-Mart full … and tons of trucks on the road.”

Sadly, these perceptions are like a David Copperfield illusion – you think you see it, but it’s not really that way. Planes are full because airlines are flying fewer and smaller craft. People are eating out but spending less (and restaurants are ditching those mammoth servings that often go wasted – which may help our national waistline!).

Wal-Mart and other discounters are doing well because of low prices. Sorry, that’s because so much of their stuff comes from Asia. And this week, according to info volunteered by ATA’s member carriers, truck freight tonnage is down 13.2 percent from April 2008 – the lowest tonnage in seven-and-a-half years.

Trucking news has been full of bankruptcies, failures and firms seeking stimulus money to keep rolling. Even allowing for some slack and fat to be taken out, we’re down to the muscle, bone and gristle of the freight business. Folks who dine out, shop and fly on airplanes should really be thanking the truckers who are holding on in order to deliver food, merchandise and jet fuel.

The going is tough, and the tough are still going.