Last year was a tough year for the trucking industry as the macro-economy slowed. The consumer side of the economy remained the pillar of growth, but the industrial side stumbled in 2016. The manufacturing sector, which provides a significant amount of freight for trucking, had a particularly rough year. The strong US dollar dampened exports, which in turn limited manufacturing output and contributed to the inventory glut. The lack of business investment is also hurting US manufacturers. Business spending on capital, including buildings and equipment, is down in the US. This in turn has led to weak labor productivity growth, which is a recipe for slow economic growth.
“Expect the unexpected” has quickly become the national mantra since Donald Trump’s election, especially in industrial sectors. On the campaign stump, Trump was pro-coal and anti-climate change, putting him at odds with major initiatives enacted last year by the Obama administration. Myron Ebell, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has a long history of being a naysayer on global warming, and Rick Perry, Trump’s choice to head the Department of Energy, once vowed to eliminate it if he was elected President. There’s no way to read these tea leaves, but his pending appointments send the signal that Trump is serious about dismantling the Obama administration’s recently approved fuel efficiency standards.