BEHIND THE NUMBERS: Top Trucking Economist to Share Key Facts & Figures

Bob Costello, chief economist at the American Trucking Associations, has valuable insights into the economy and the trucking industry that can help truckstop and travel plaza operators prepare for the future.

During NATSO Connect, Costello will sit down with operators and share information on critical economic factors that will influence the fleets and the country’s consumers throughout the coming year. What’s more, he will dig into the reasons they are relevant, which will help operators lay the groundwork for strategic business decisions.

Costello will address operators as part of a panel discussion led by Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, vice president, public relations at NATSO. Truckstop operators, including confirmed panelists Jim Hays, owner of Dodge City Petro, Chad Stanford, vice president of real estate for QuikTrip Corp, and Elizabeth Warring, president and CEO of Busy Bee, will have a chance to ask specific questions that will help them uncover the economic issues that will affect their operations throughout 2018 and beyond.

Numbers without an analytical framework can be white noise, so Costello sat down with Stop Watch to discuss some of the key facts and figures he will likely share during the session and described why they matter to the truckstop and travel plaza industry.

Autonomous Trucking: Autonomous trucking technology could affect how many professional drivers are needed to deliver freight, which correlates to the number of drivers stopping at the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas. Costello said, “NATSO members will want to know, ‘Is this real, is it not real, is it a threat to us?’”

Driver Pay: Driver pay rates affect how much money drivers have to spend at NATSO members’ locations. Higher pay means greater discretionary income, which could improve sales.

Driver Shortage: Costello said the driver shortage remains a critical issue
for the trucking industry. “They’re the ones spending money in their stops,” Costello said, adding that ATA projects the shortage to reach 50,000 by the end of 2017. If current trends hold, the shortage could grow to more than 174,000 by 2026. The driver shortage issue could have a ripple effect on the truckstop industry, impacting how many professional drivers stop at their locations as well as what fleets have to pay drivers to attract and keep them. It could also affect the length of haul as fleets work to get drivers more home time to increase
job satisfaction.

Home Construction: New home construction adds to freight levels. In addition to driving construction-related freight, home construction results in increased purchases of furniture and appliances.

Length of Haul: The average length of haul in the dry van has continued to decrease since 2000, which is when more and more consumers started shopping online. The average length of haul can directly relate to the amount of time professional drivers spend on the road and the types of goods and services they buy when they stop.

Manufacturing Levels: Manufacturing levels are a key indicator of how much freight will be hitting the nation’s highways, and knowing which way the manufacturing is trending can give truckstop and travel plazas an early glimpse into expected freight levels.

Personal Spending: Personal spending within the U.S. is one of the primary factors that drives trucking demand. The more consumers buy, the more goods that need to be hauled by truck. If wages increase, consumers have more money to spend, whether it is on grab-and-go foods or gifts and novelties.

Trucking Industry Growth: Growth within the trucking industry directly relates to the number of trucks and drivers on the road. Operators can ask Costello about new players entering trucking as well as the current state of the industry. Costello said he has found that truckstop and travel plaza operators are typically interested in how the trucking industry is performing. He said, “Are we slowing down? Are we speeding up? How is freight, are fleets making any money?”

Trucking Productivity: Trucking productivity can fluctuate and influences how many trucks and drivers are on the nation’s highways. In 2018, the figure will be particularly interesting as the industry adjusts to the electronic logging mandate that took effect in late 2017. Many industry analysts have predicted ELDs would result in more trucks on the road to make up for lost productivity.

Unemployment Rates: Unemployment rates can influence how much employers pay their employees, which directly relates to how much money consumers have to spend.

NAFTA: The United States is currently evaluating its role in the North American
Free Trade Agreement, which could affect the trucking industry

Costello will dig into these figures and more during the session Trucking Economy
2.0 on Feb. 12 from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.

via Business Feeds

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