If you ever wondered what industry is the American’ economy’s most accurate bellwether, here’s some pretty good evidence that it might be trucking.In the just-released minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s December 11, 2007 meeting, then-St. Louis Fed Governor William Poole recounted what he was hearing from his nonfinancial business contacts about orders and sales.
Most reported softening activity, but nothing dire.
But not Poole’s trucker.
From the December 2007 transcript:
UPS is expecting a peak season that is milder than in the previous years; my contact believes that the economy is not going into a negative but is clearly slowing down. The company is leasing eleven fewer aircraft this year. To meet the peak, they always lease extra planes for shipping. They are probably holding about steady on capital outlays.
My contact at FedEx says that the outlook is very soft, not much buildup toward the holiday peak.
The retailers that they talked to are anticipating a softer season, not an absolute decline, but slow growth. International business remains very strong. This company is reducing capital expenditures by 10 per cent from its previous expectation.
My contact in a major company in the trucking industry says that we are in a recession, the worst he has seen in 20 to 40 years. The company is reducing its fleet size by 10 per cent, is cutting capital spending quite substantially, and has no good news.
This all the more incredible given the NBER later determined December 2007 was the month when the Great Recession began.