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3/8/2010 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Economic Tide Is Rising

This Editorial appears in the March 8 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Things are getting better. That was the consensus most analysts have reached after looking at recent weeks’ economic numbers, and it was the nearly unanimous opinion of people attending the Truckload Carriers Association convention last week in Las Vegas.

In the past two weeks, we’ve seen jumps in freight tonnage, trailer orders, worker productivity, industrial production, consumer spending and durable goods, among other indicators.

And late last week, we learned that new claims for unemployment insurance fell by 29,000, and continuing jobless claims declined to their lowest level since January 2009.

At the TCA meeting, we heard from various fleet executives that business has vastly improved from the depths of the recession, and while freight rates continue to lag, tonnage is rising steadily.

Truck and trailer makers also were more upbeat than we’ve seen in about 18 months, with several manufacturers reporting that they were rehiring furloughed workers to expand production.

All this is not to say that boom times have returned. Far from it, in fact. There still is widespread concern that the recovery we’re seeing is transitory, and that some future negative event is going to let the air out of this new balloon of a recovering national economy.

But somebody’s out there buying new trucks and trailers.

As we reported last week, trailer orders jumped 10% in January from year-ago levels. Yes, the new number is measured against the catastrophic low levels of early 2009. But truck makers at the show had good things to say as well, with one reporting that his company’s heavy-duty truck production was sold out through May and probably soon would be sold out through June. And the May and June sales were for trucks with the new, more expensive 2010 engines.

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