GRAPEVINE, TX. Despite slower economic growth than expected, “trucking’s fundamentals still remain good, and the best times are still ahead of us in trucking,” according to Bob Costello, the chief economist for the American Trucking Assns (ATA).
“Right now, freight demand is moving sideways rather than falling off a cliff like it did in 2008,” and overall capacity in the for-hire segments remains tight, Costello said during a panel discussion the annual ATA Management Conference & Exhibition.
With supply and demand for trucking “close to equilibrium,” fleet businesses should continue to outperform the macro economy “as long as manufacturing continues to do well,” he said. And a severe shortage of drivers – “the worst we’ve ever seen” – in the next few years should continue to keep capacity tight, according to Costello.
Despite the generally good environment, fleets are going to have to watch costs carefully, he told the ATA membership. Significantly higher equipment replacement costs, increased maintenance costs driven by an aging U.S. truck fleet, and higher wages for drivers are among the major factors driving those costs, according to the economist.
As for the general economy slipping into a double dip recession, Costello said: “We’ve never had a recession that trucking (activity) didn’t predict, and it’s not predicting one now.”