There is much reason for the trucking industry to be optimistic as we enter 2018. For one, freight levels have improved significantly for the industry. In addition, the combination of better freight volumes and for-hire fleets not adding to truck counts in 2017 absorbed much of the excess capacity that plagued the industry over the previous couple of years. With both the main drivers of truck freight demand doing well and the use of electronic logging devices now required, 2018 could be the best year the industry has experienced in the post deregulation era. Indeed, two of the biggest challenges for motor carriers this year will be finding enough qualified drivers and covering all their loads.
Last year was a tough year for the trucking industry as the macro-economy slowed. The consumer side of the economy remained the pillar of growth, but the industrial side stumbled in 2016. The manufacturing sector, which provides a significant amount of freight for trucking, had a particularly rough year. The strong US dollar dampened exports, which in turn limited manufacturing output and contributed to the inventory glut. The lack of business investment is also hurting US manufacturers. Business spending on capital, including buildings and equipment, is down in the US. This in turn has led to weak labor productivity growth, which is a recipe for slow economic growth.