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The adage, “If you bought it, a truck brought it,” holds true. The economy is understandably a critical concern of the trucking industry because the flux of the market and the habits of consumers are heavily relied upon by truckers. Though the economy is recognized by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) as the 9th trucking industry issue of priority, this ranking has quickly fallen from the number one issue over the last couple years. Overall, the decrease in importance of this issue is a positive economic indicator and a display of the resiliency of the trucking industry.
The Great Recession in America lasted 18 months, from December 2007 to June 2009, according to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research. During this time a subprime mortgage crisis as well as a financial crisis worked together to stymy consumer spending and consequentially freight transit. In 2009, the spending for logistics in the GDP plummeted to 7.7%, the lowest level on record. The trucking industry comprises 78% of the transportation section within logistic costs, and it felt a 20.3% decline in expenditure.
In spite of this massive decline and knock to the industry, nearly 70% of all freight tonnage transported in the United States was moved by trucks in 2013. Projections estimate that this percentage will only increase within the next 10 years, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics likewise supports growth with the projection that consumer spending will steadily rise 2.6% every year through 2022.
This is great news for the economy as well as the trucking industry, but the new problem becomes: who is going to drive all of this freight. There is an extreme driver shortage within trucking, totaling an estimated 35,000 person deficit in 2014. According to a projection by the American Trucking Association (ATA), the industry could be short 240,000 qualified drivers by the year 2022. The rise of consumer demand in the last few years has effected an increase in freight production, but manpower has failed to match this positive trend. Ultimately, the improvement of the economy relies heavily on trucking and trucking relies heavily on the economy.