October 4, 2018 6:45 PM, EDT

Editorial: Continuing to Do Business

The trucking industry breathed a sigh of relief when news broke that Canada had agreed to terms to join the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, the much-debated replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. That all three countries are now attached to the trilateral pact is good news for motor carriers, whether or not their trucks cross the borders. That’s because keeping trade moving among all three countries helps keep the wheels turning for U.S.-based operations. And it is not just trucking that benefits: it’s any company that supplies materials or components to support commerce in the three member countries. While we all now must get used to saying “USMCA” instead of “NAFTA,” that’s a small price to pay to maintain favorable trade with our closest neighbors.

Unfortunately, the industry is adjusting to a higher price to pay for its primary fuel; the price of a gallon of diesel hit a four-year high, after six straight weeks of increases. It’s now more than 50 cents more expensive per gallon than it was a year ago.

Concerns about supplies of crude are partially to blame, but with a surging freight market and demand soaring for truck capacity, it’s little wonder that the price of the industry’s key fuel is pushing upward.

Demand for trucks also continues to soar. According to research data, Class 8 orders in September were 90% higher than year-ago levels, and four of the top five most-active months in history have occurred this year. This kind of demand cannot last forever, but for the moment, it’s keeping production facilities humming, and dealers happy.

Keeping those new trucks on the road has gotten more expensive, however; according to new data from the American Transportation Research Institute, the per-mile cost to operate a Class 8 truck has increased 6% year-over-year, and for a variety of factors. In addition to the aforementioned rise in fuel prices, increasing rates of driver pay are also cited. That’s great for those who keep the freight moving and we’re glad to see drivers being rewarded for the important work they do. It’s a trend that we have and will continue to cover, because it’s a vital aspect of keeping trucks on the road. After all, without happy drivers, who’s going to make all of those deliveries into Canada and Mexico?