There have been plenty of splashy headlines about a so-called “freight recession” and “freight bloodbath” supported by reports of major trucking outfits filing for bankruptcy. Yellow trucking went under, largely due to poor decision-making, setting the stage for media outlets to profess the “sky is falling” once again. When a massive, 99-year-old trucking mainstay such as Yellow folds, a deep dive into industry trends is worthwhile. But does Yellow and other bankruptcies truly back end-of-days messaging?
“Everybody’s calling this the great trucking recession, and it’s true because all the trucking companies right now are in dark times. This is not a good time to be in the trucking industry. Just to paint a picture, the trucking industry is the engine that drives the American economy forward,” JKC Trucking Vice-President and Co-Owner Mike Kucharski reportedly said. “We’re fueling growth [and] prosperity by transporting goods to where they need to be and when the engine breaks down or stops, it works like a heart. When that ceases to be, it brings the entire economic system to a halt.”
Likening the struggles of a handful of freight carriers to a heart attack may be something of a stretch. That’s mainly because freight recession rhetoric typically leaves out a few facts. Although Yellow couldn’t overcome its debt liabilities or hash out a viable labor-management deal with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, major less-than-truckload operations engaged in a bidding war to purchase its trucks, trailers, and distribution terminals.
Old Dominion and Estes Express Lines slugged it out, with the latter proving victorious to the tune of $1.525 billion for the terminals. One has to wonder whether the seasoned truck transportation professionals at Estes and Old Dominion were determined to throw good money after bad. Or, do they see profit-driving opportunities in investing a billion-and-a-half dollars in trucking expansion? Time will tell.
Few would deny that the supply chain issues America experienced coming out of the pandemic pushed the limits of trucking outfits to the brink. Consumer spending surged to the point hours-of-service exemptions were being doled out to keep critical resources moving. To say the trucking industry has “slumped” could be a tad misleading, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers show trucking job opportunities haven’t changed all that much.
The recent jobs report shows October truck transportation jobs shifted from 1.6 to 1.58 million year-over-year. The data also indicates jobs are up about 8,000 over August, even as holiday freight transportation wanes. The BLS anticipates truck driver jobs to grow by 89,300 through 2032.