Truck shipments continue to increase

Truckers block a highway in the Netherlands to protest the rising cost of fuel.

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Kai Ryssdal: Oil shook off the slide it's been on the past couple of weeks. Crude shot up more than $4.50 today to almost $127 a barrel.

If you think that's making it tough on you at the pumps, pity truckers who've got to fill up those huge gas tanks on their semis. Today, though, the trucking business offered a rest stop on the highway of gloomy economic news.

An industry group said truckers moved more cargo this June than they did a year ago and it's the eight straight month of increases.

But Marketplace's Amy Scott reports we're going to have to wait for the rest of the economy to catch up.


Amy Scott: If manufacturers and retailers are shipping more stuff, that suggests demand for that stuff is picking up.

Tavio Headley is an economist with the American Trucking Associations, or ATA. He says the total tonnage of goods shipped by truck last month rose by more than 5 percent compared to June of last year. But he's not ready to celebrate just yet.

Tavio Headley: The first half of last year was really weak, so it doesn't really take much to show year-earlier improvement. So all in all, the year-over-year increases, they're a very positive sign for our industry, but it's still too early to call it a full recovery.

You don't have to tell truck driver Jason Perkins. I caught him on his mobile phone outside Atlanta. He was on his way to pick up a load of insulation bound for New Jersey.

Jason Perkins: I have not seen tonnage going up. What I have seen is a lot of our competition has gone belly up.

Close to a thousand trucking companies filed for bankruptcy in the first three months of the year. Analysts say the second quarter was probably even worse. Perkins says one big reason: the price of diesel.

Perkins: When we pull into a truck stop and fuel up, we could very easily spend a thousand dollars just to fill up our tanks. So fueling up every other day, I mean, that's a big strain on anyone's pocketbook.

If trucking demand continues to rebound, it may be a while before the broader economy follows suit. The ATA says in the 2001 downturn, demand recovered before the overall economy even fell into recession.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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