Wildly mixed economic and business forces make it “tough to forecast even one or two quarters out,” but there is some good news for trucking hidden among the contradictory signs, according to Paul Will, vice chairman, president & COO of the Celadon Group. After three years of significant overcapacity in truckload carriage, “it now appears to be in equilibrium, and going forward will be in a carrier's favor, especially if the economy picks up at all,” Will said during his state of the industry keynote address at ALK Technology's 2011 Summit in Princeton, NJ.
Positives for the general economy include expanding manufacturing output, strong exports, slowly declining unemployment, robust capital equipment investment and expectations that GDP growth will run at about 3% for the next three years, Will said. Consumers are also beginning to spend again and have paid down personal debt from a high of 138% in 2004 to 113%, he told attendees at the ALK summit.
Countering the good news, estimates are that it will take 48 months for employment to recover to pre-recession levels, Will said. And while a weak U.S. dollar props up exports, it is also bringing rising consumer costs, which is combining with slow wage growth to act as a brake on consumer spending, he said.