Trucks at Work
Erics Starks at right takes the stage Photo by Sean Kilcarr for Fleet Owner

Erics Starks, at right, takes the stage. Photo by Sean Kilcarr for Fleet Owner.

Putting the freight picture into focus

So Eric Starks, president of research firm FTR Transportation Intelligence, gave a presentation at the 2017 Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) annual convention this week centered on the state of the U.S. freight market – in particular looking at factors that might help or hinder demand for trucking capacity in the months ahead.

For starters, while many positive freight flow factors are in the mix – manufacturing activity is up, housing starts are up, and the inventory-to-sales ratio is dropping – other issues, particularly around U.S. trade policies going forward, are making many in the business community nervous.

And when business people get nervous or uncertain, “they don’t make decisions,” Starks said. That lack of decision-making is what hurts the development of future freight flows, he added.

"Imagine the economy is climbing a hill right now; it's gaining speed and gaining traction," he explained. "But because you are going uphill, even if you tap the brakes just a little bit, you're going to come to a stop."

That's why one of the biggest risks Starks sees ahead for the U.S., freight market iss what happens to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. If NAFTA gets thrown into uncertainty, he said, that will be a strong tapping of the brakes, and U.S. economic growth could come to a halt as a result.

Here are some more of Starks insights:

Things to think about as truckers try to plan for the future.

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