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March 4, 2015 4:00 PM, EST

Economy Continues to Expand, But Truck Drivers Remain Scarce, Fed Says

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The economy continued to expand across most of the country from early January to mid-February, but regions reported difficulty in filling openings for truck drivers, the Federal Reserve said.

The Cleveland, Richmond, and Kansas City districts said they were seeing increased wage pressure due to difficulty in attracting and retaining truckers, the Fed said in its Beige Book report released March 4.

In Atlanta, trucking companies cited steady freight volume and year-over-year increases in tonnage. Ports in the district said bulk cargo, container traffic and automobile shipments increased significantly from a year ago, most likely due to West Coast port congestion.

Trucking firms in Dallas reported declining cargo volumes because of shipping disruptions at West Coast ports, while rail and small-parcel shipments increased in January.

The Cleveland district said little change was seen in freight volume since the last Beige Book, with many carriers operating at a high level. Carriers in the Cleveland area said they expect the economy to continue to expand, but capacity constraints may limit growth.

A transportation services analyst for the Philadelphia region said traffic volume was approaching levels last reached during the prior expansion, creating increased highway congestion.

The record volume in the Philadelphia region has occurred even as trucking capacity was freeing up due to recent investments in new trucks, drivers and a temporary lull from regulatory constraints, the Fed said in its report.

The Fed releases its Beige Book report eight times a year. The report, which covered Jan. 5-Feb. 23, was prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

See below for the full report.