Editorial: The Roads Ahead in 2018

The roads where the trucking industry makes its living are expected to be busy in the year ahead — for a variety of reasons.

They’re expected to be packed with freight traffic, as forecasters predict that the robust economy will propel the momentum that powered the final months of last year into this one. Plus, the holiday shopping season was strong, both for in-store and online sales. That’s a good indicator for consumer sentiment heading into the New Year, and sets the stage for some early supply chain activity as consumers return gifts they don’t want. While this forces parcel carriers to return to doorsteps where just days prior they’d dropped off a package, it’s all part of the evolution of the supply chain. It keeps truck wheels turning, and the roads busy.

The growing importance of e-commerce is just one of several issues industry insiders discuss in our annual Year in Preview story. These experts share their insights on what to expect for the trucking industry in 2018.

A common thread in some of their comments is the pressing need for infrastructure upgrades, and there is optimism heading into 2018 that President Donald Trump is ready to make good on his commitment to launch a sweeping 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure improvement plan this year. With major work on tax reform behind it, administration officials are indicating that they’re ready to tackle this key tenet of Trump’s campaign.

At least one industry leader has an idea that could help: American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear presented Congress at a late-year Senate hearing with a proposal to create a new fund — collected at fuel racks — that would be used to pay for infrastructure projects. His timing may be prescient, as infrastructure funding seems like an issue that Trump could embrace this year.

Let’s hope so. Improving the nation’s infrastructure is a bipartisan issue, and has the markings of something lawmakers could rally around in a midterm election year. It could keep voters happy, store shelves stocked, doorsteps stacked with deliveries and trucks moving smoothly down the roads.