WHERE TRUCKS ARE HEADED
The American Trucking Association recently released its latest ATA Freight Transportation Forecast: 2019 to 2030, an annual projection of the state of the freight economy. Despite recent declines in August and September in 2019, the forecast reveals continued growth for this mode of transportation. The overall freight transportation industry, especially trucking, is expected to experience strong growth over the next decade as the country’s economy and population grow.
Historical and projected information from The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis (as shown below) supports the forecast.
Chief among the findings in this year’s Forecast is:
- Overall freight tonnage will grow to 20.6 billion tons in 2030, up 25.6% from 2019’s projection of 16.4 billion tons.
- Freight industry revenues will increase 53.8% to $1.601 trillion over the next decade.
- Trucking’s share of total freight tonnage will dip to 68.8% in 2030 from 71.1% this year, even as tonnage grows to 14.2 billion tons in 2030 from 11.7 billion tons.
- Trucking and total rail transportation will lose relative market share, even as revenues and tonnage grows.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, truck driving remains one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, despite the shortage of drivers. There are more than 1.7 million heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck driving jobs today. Overall, a total of 7.4 million Americans have jobs tied to the trucking industry. A recent study by National Public Radio found that “trucker driver” was the most dominant job in 29 U.S. states, including California and Texas.
Trucking is a key bell weather of the United States’ overall economic health. When more trucks are moving, that means consumers are spending more, and retailers and manufacturers are adding to their inventories. It’s no coincidence that, at a time when consumer confidence and overall employment are at the highest levels in nearly 17 years, the trucking industry is also seeing growth in shipping demand.
Bob Costello, the ATA Chief Economist, states: “Our annual Freight Forecast is a valuable look at where we are headed so leaders in business and government can make important decisions about investments and policy.” While some may look to autonomous driving trucks to have a positive impact on costs, strong demand for trucks will mitigate this benefit. Freight rates will continue their historical trend of increases. Every supply chain leader needs to make plans to deal with where trucks are headed and the long term trend of higher freight rates.