As the ups and downs of the last few years show, the trucking industry can be an economic barometer. Most goods in the United States are shipped by tractor-trailer. Economist Tavio Headley, who studies the transportation industry, maintains the amount of goods shipped and the number of drivers employed often represents sales trends and overall inventory levels.
Before the recession trucking thrived. There were not enough drivers to meet demand. Some major carriers even resorted to paying third-parties up to a $1,000 for every recruit they delivered to meet driver demand.
But during the early months of the recession Idaho’s trucking industry and the rest of the country suffered. Demand for drivers and tonnage shipped over the road slipped drastically. Many trucking companies mothballed or sold off part of their fleets and some sold out or merged with other carriers.
So if trucking is a harbinger, then the current national economic outlook is positive. According to the most recent U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast released last summer, freight tonnage should grow 21 percent by 2023. The American Transportation Association reports that monthly freight tonnage was up 6.5 percent nationally last year from 2011. Occupational projections by the Idaho Department of Labor indicate a growing need for truck drivers in the coming years.