State of the Industry

E5: State of the Industry Podcast with John Elliott: 2023 Trucking Industry Predictions

By Brandon Baxter - Staff Writer
Posted Jan 21st 2023 8:00AM

In this State of the Industry podcast, Load1’s John Elliott and host Brandon Baxter bring the previous year to a close. Covering the ‘year in review’, they dig into all that transpired in 2022 and discuss what to look out for in 2023 and beyond, for the trucking industry. 

Tune in to the fifth episode of the “State of the Industry Podcast, with John Elliott” so we can set our New Year’s resolutions together! 


Brandon Baxter: Well John, we're going to jump right into our episode here, and we're recording the last one before the end of 2022. Depending on when our viewers/listeners imbibe on this fifth episode, this is either Merry Christmas or Happy New Year, because we're not sure when exactly this is going to air. But John, as we wrap up 2022, something I'd like to get into with you is just to recap how you felt the year went. What were some of the big things that happened and where do you think we go in 2023?

John Elliott: I think it was a hell of a year. We hopefully saw a move toward the end of COVID, at least on a pandemic level, into a little bit more of a normalized level here in the US. We went through the election cycle, and I think everyone's glad to be done with that. We’re all tired of watching the TV commercials and everything that went along with that, and I think we’ve all breathed a sigh of relief that it’s finally over… at least for another year, until it starts again.

We had some wins in the trucking industry, we also had some struggles. Equipment pricing is still through the roof, fuel hit some all-time highs, but we certainly had some wins. The Rhode Island toll case came out on our side. California, with the AB5 situation, did not come out on our side. It was definitely a mixed year. But again, hopeful going into 2023 that we continue to see things trend in a positive direction.

BB: How much do you feel, of the things you mentioned, might linger from 2022 into the next year? Do you think there's going to be a lot of carry-over?

JE: I honestly don't know what the new normal is anymore. Or at least it's going to be a little while, I think, until we get to a normality. We definitely have some economic headwinds to get through. All the economists are predicting a recession. Whether it's harsh or whether it's a soft landing, I personally think it's a soft landing, but a lot of people say it's the first and second quarter of 2023. I believe we're already in it, though.

If you look at trucking, we're often a lead economic indicator. I think we went into the recession about a month and a half ago although, after Thanksgiving, we saw volumes and pricing move back up again. Why? I’m not sure. First, I thought it was the potential railroad strike but then that was averted. It didn’t seem to change things as pricing continued to trend upward, as well as volumes. We’ve also got mixed job reports at a time when unemployment numbers are going down.

Yet, retailers who normally hire more people actually hired less and reduced their staff. There are a lot of mixed things but I think we're actually in the soft landing or soft recession right now, I think. My guess is the trucking industry will move out of it towards the end of the first quarter, and hopefully move on to better things for the rest of the year. But again, there are a lot of factors in play. So much depends on what the Fed does with interest rates and a number of other things. China's always a wild card, Russia just doesn't seem to know what to do with the quagmire they've created. We'll see. One thing’s for sure, it won't be boring.

BB: Well, rewinding back to something we were discussing in our last episode about the elections. It's nice to see the bipartisan workmanship, as you've put it before, reaching across the aisle to help out the country. Talk a bit about the impact you've seen this have on the industry.

JE: Our government, doesn't matter if you're on the left or on the right, it's incredibly polarized. It seems like nobody wants to be in the middle anymore, which is sad. We have to cross the aisle to get things done. Neither side's going to get things done on their own. I think transportation is one of those rare things that can be bipartisan, and I think we saw that with the huge transportation infrastructure bill that was passed last year.

I think that's a great example, and I think that the truck parking situation runs right along with that. There'll be plenty of other things that involve our industry that aren’t very bipartisan, but I believe that the infrastructure and the parking will definitely help solidify things. I think Congress wants to reach across the aisle a little bit, they definitely want to have some wins. Even though they often want to dig their heels in on certain things they know they’ve got to produce some wins to be able to tell the public that they're trying, that they're working together in some capacity. I think this is one that’s hopefully easier for them to agree on.

BB: I think that's interesting because when they're putting on a face, speaking of our government, our Congress, they’re making it appear as though one side's taking one angle while the other side's taking another. So, does that make trucking the middle ground?

JE: Once upon a time I don't think it was, but I do think we've moved into that middle ground. I think throughout the pandemic, and with the importance that was placed upon the supply chain, they saw the effect that trucking had on the nation. They saw what we went through, that we were there, and that we stepped up for this country. With all the continuing supply chain issues, it's really shined a light on our industry that hasn't been there in a long time or maybe even ever before. I think the public mindset about our industry has shifted in a positive direction. The most recent polls find a much more favorable view of our industry than what was in years past, and I think that's a good thing.

The conversation doesn’t end there, but this article does. To get more from this conversation, check out the “State of the Industry Podcast, with John Elliott.” Episode five is out now and can be found wherever you get your podcasts.

Until next time,

Brandon Baxter