Nothing goes without trucks
They are giving one another a boost. The lorry industry is benefiting from the booming economy in the US, however, this boom is only possible thanks to the millions of vehicles that transported 70% of all goods from A to B last year.
Hardly a country in the world is so strongly dominated by symbols as the United States. In addition to the skylines in the metropolises and the natural monuments like the Grand Canyon, countless chrome steel-decorated trucks are among the most striking images that embody the country. However, this conveyed truck romance is crumbling. Bad working conditions, a lack of drivers and an uncertain future are the problems of the present day.
More than USD 700 billion in sales
However, a look at the bare figures posted in the industry also reveals that the American truck world is nevertheless in rude health. According to the latest American Trucking Trends yearbook published by the American Trucking Association (ATA), the industry generated sales of USD 700.1 billion in 2017. That is an increase of 3.5% on the previous year and close to the record year of 2015, when USD 719.3 billion was posted. Overall, nearly 80% of the entire transport costs incurred in the US went into truck transport.
For this money, the trucks transported a volume of 10.7 billion t of freight. That is 70% of the entire domestic goods volume in the United States. In cross-border goods transport, road haulage also occupies a dominant position. For transports headed in the direction of Mexico it was 69.1% in 2017 and 57.7% for transport operations to Canada. For ATA president Chris Spear, the report emphasises the strength of the US truck industry: “Road haulage is the driving force behind our strong economy. Thanks to the safe and reliable truck industry, companies can keep their stocks down and reduce expenses.”
Few women, many vacancies
However, the ATA deals not only with the successful indicators of the truck world, but also with its difficulties. One of the most urgent is, as in Europe, the lack of drivers. According to information provided by the association, there is a shortage of 63,000 truckers in the United States, and now a similar problem is also become apparent for mechanics. Currently, 7.7 million people work in the truck industry, about half of them (3.5 million) are sat at the steering wheel. As one might imagine, the profession of truck driver is a job dominated by men - the share of women is a mere 6.2%. The lack of drivers transporting goods across the land will likely become even more acute in the future – unless self-driving trucks have become a viable alternative. American transport operators invest cyclically and are buying new trucks in their droves.
Spending spree in July
The specialist portal FTR Transportation Intelligence recently reported that 29,000 new vehicles were ordered in July. The summer month is traditionally the year’s weakest in this respect, but orders more than doubled compared to the previous month in 2018. Seen over the entire year, transport companies ordered 350,000 new trucks. With the exception of June, orders were higher in every month compared to 2017. Reefer transporters experienced particularly strong demand according to FTR, but demand for normal trailers has also picked up again after a weak June.
Analysts assume that this development, as well as the demand for goods transport more broadly, will continue on this trajectory in 2019. For that reason, it is possible that some orders are being brought forward because there is fear of a shortage materialising in a couple of months’ time.
The protected truck market
It goes without saying that US producers are also enjoying the many new trucks being ordered, whereas the country code is something of a pleonasm. On the highways between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, virtually only vehicles from domestic production are in operation. This has a simple reason: imported trucks and pick-ups are subject to customs tariffs of 25% in the US, which are a lot higher than those levied in Europe.
However, if prices for trucks appreciate in accordance with the laws of supply and demand, the booming American market could suddenly also become interesting for manufacturers based in Europe or Asia.