In The News

the trucking landscape

Now vs Later: The Trucking Landscape

By Brandon Baxter - Staff Writer
Posted May 8th 2023 8:00AM

 As with anything in life, there are always going to be ups and downs. Many folks use the idea of rising and falling tides as a metaphor for life’s ebb and flow. Personally, and as I’ve learned through years of rising and falling, I now have a better understanding of what this mindset means. As we experience the highs in our lives, we also should be preparing for the moment when the bottom inevitably drops out from underneath us. Likewise, when we are in the midst of difficulty, we should remember that things don’t always stay down so long as we keep pushing forward. The trucking industry is no different in this regard.

Recent happenings in the United States economy have the trucking industry on edge, and for good reason. The current atmosphere is strikingly similar to the air that persisted around the 2008 market crisis. Companies are seeing their first quarter earnings miss their original estimates mark, while also preparing for additional evidence that predicts the spot market hitting bottom in the second quarter.

The federal reserve continues to raise interest rates, truck sales continue to flounder throughout the US, and companies and carriers continue to experience great difficulty in recruiting solid drivers and owner operators. The industry is in the middle of a quagmire.

Learning From Our Past

From personal experience, I don’t know there’s much that can be done besides continuing to muddle forward in an effort to be prepared for when the rising waters return.

I entered the industry as a young recruiter back in the middle of the economic downturn that was 2008-2009. I remember the importance and urgency placed on all recruiters to find and bring in drivers and owner operators at seemingly any cost. The problem at the time was that no matter how much new blood was infused into the fleet, the hemorrhage of drivers continued from an operational standpoint. The carriers couldn’t keep drivers busy enough to hold onto them. At that time, drivers became a revolving novelty as they jumped from carrier to carrier looking for the best ways to make a living. It was difficult for everybody.

One thing I noticed from the carrier I was recruiting for at that time, was that there was ongoing effort to try and shake up the daily recruiting efforts by constantly abandoning routine practices just for a quick fix. Unfortunately, the fix rarely lasted, and the next big idea would then be implemented, again, with unenthusiastic results.

Where Do We Go?

In the words of 80’s rock god Axl Rose, leading front man from Guns N’ Roses, “Where do we go? Where do we go now?”

Well, that’s probably a sentiment that’s purely up for interpretation. There are some out there who can only function by getting their quick fix, otherwise they’ll die on the vine. Whether it be in the driver recruiting sector, freight spot market, or even truck sales, there are those who will continue to throw darts at a board to figure out what their next move should be. Sometimes that works, but more often than not it’s a temporary fix at best.

Patience Just Might Be The Key

As pointed out before, life, as well as trucking, has its ups and downs. We are obviously going through a downturn, and it is only a matter of time before we emerge on the other side of it. Now, I am not a prognosticator by any means so I can’t sit here in super-confidence and say that all will be back to normal in a month or two. However, I do know a thing or two about patience.

Continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results is a dangerous game to play, so making small changes in order for carriers and drivers to stay afloat through this time makes sense. But to do so with the hope that drastic measures will be met with positive results can also be dangerous, mainly because expectations should most definitely be tempered.

Patience is key to getting through this muck and mire of an economic slide. Make small changes where you must, but what might make the most sense is to simply keep on truckin’. Besides, it’s what we in the industry do best.