The past two years have been anything but ordinary, and industries of all types have experienced seismic shifts in how they do business. The trucking market is no exception. But exactly how has it been affected? Is the trucking business slow (or even in a downturn) right now, or is it growing? And why is it so hard to determine exactly what’s going on? Let’s look at some trucking trends that could have a real impact on your business through the rest of 2022.
Is the trucking business slowing down?
If you’re in the trucking business, slow seasons are inevitable, no matter what is happening in the market. In fact, the trucker’s year can be loosely divided into four seasons, some of which are busier than others.
January through March is widely considered the slowest season. There aren’t as many goods to ship with the holidays over. The weather is bad in many parts of the country, and many people are less inclined to make shipments that could run into extensive weather delays. Businesses tend to take this time to recover from the holidays and prepare for the year ahead. So if you’ve seen slowdowns in the early part of this year, it could be due to simple seasonality.
But don’t worry. The produce season kicked off in April and will last through July, increasing demand. Then we’ll move directly into the peak shipping season of August through October, followed by the holiday rush. From a strictly seasonal perspective, it appears likely that the trucking business is picking up. Of course, common seasonality means there will likely be another slowdown at the beginning of 2023.
The truck driver shortage
Have you heard that there’s a truck driver shortage? It’s been leading industry news since at least the fall of 2021. In fact, in October 2021, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported a shortfall of 80,000 drivers. And this staggering number is expected to double by 2030, reaching an eye-popping 160,000 openings.
There are numerous reasons for this shortage. Even pre-pandemic, there were issues. The industry has historically had trouble attracting female drivers. The average age of truck drivers is increasing, and it can be challenging to attract younger employees. Many people are turned off by the idea of over-the-road (OTR) driving, which generally means spending days or weeks away from home, sleeping in the truck, and showering at rest areas.
During the pandemic, it was difficult to recruit and train new drivers at all. Shutdown orders, a lack of open facilities, and many people’s reluctance to spend long periods in a truck with a trainer were just a few of the problems. As we emerge from the pandemic, this lack of new drivers only exacerbates the existing issues.
The price of oil
It’s no secret that fuel costs are surging in 2022. There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is that truckers are being hit hard. However, the ripple effects on the trucking business are not quite as clear. On the one hand, many shoppers are resuming their pandemic shopping habits and ordering more goods online rather than going to a brick-and-mortar store, which increases the need for trucks and drivers. On the other hand, many trucking companies need to pass on a fuel surcharge to their customers to make money. And in combination with other price increases due to inflation, this may have a dampening effect on the industry overall.
Is the trucking business set to grow in 2022?
Despite the challenges, many experts predict that the trucking business will grow through the rest of 2022. The ATA’s U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2022 reports that freight tonnage this year will rise by 24%, with a predicted 66% increase in revenue. And most of that will go to the trucking industry, with freight rail demand expected to fall.
Supply chain issues are also expected to improve as we move further out of the pandemic. Data analytics and other technologies will boost visibility across all parts of the supply chain. Digitization will help shippers, freight brokers, trucking companies, and even individual drivers identify potential issues and address them before they become full-blown problems.
Shipping container problems should also ease as pandemic disruptions start to fade. This should help reduce congestion at ports, making it easier for trucks to get in and out without facing long wait times.
New driver training has resumed as usual. As more drivers enter the industry, trucking capacity will be less pinched. Combined with smart trucks packed with the latest tracking technology, this will help trucking companies make better planning and logistics decisions, positioning themselves for the best possible growth.
Federal investment in infrastructure is flowing into states, and roads and bridges are being fixed and upgraded. As these projects reach completion, it will be easier for truckers to choose direct routes that keep their trucks rolling and make money.
Find and book quality loads in any market.
It’s been a tough couple of years for everyone, and the trucking industry has definitely faced challenges. But the further we emerge from the global pandemic, the more growth opportunities the trucking business will see. Things may have been slow in early 2022 due to seasonality and pandemic-related factors, but the future ahead looks bright as we move toward peak season. However, nothing is certain except change. The trucking business is embracing the tools and technology needed to grow in the short and long term.
Carriers can use the Truckstop.com Load Board to quickly find and book quality loads, whether the spot market is up or down. With fully vetted brokers and shippers and a full range of tools to help you negotiate the best rates, Truckstop.com is here to help you keep your trucks rolling through all market conditions. Sign up today.