The U.S. economy is in a "golden age" of prosperity that has lasted 17 years and while there may be a recession in the next 5-10 years, the overall outlook is for steady economic growth.
That was the message from Eaton Corp. Chief Economist Jim Meil at the recent annual meeting of TRALA. He said the U.S. is "the worldwide premier manufacturer of industrial goods," with a productivity advantage of 20-25% over Japan and Germany.
"Trucks are the 800-pound gorilla" which in 1998 accounted for 82% of the nation's freight bill--a 12% modal gain since the '60s. He pointed out that any new industrial complex must be near an interstate, and "The fact of the matter is, we (trucking) are in a growth business."
Meil predicts 3-4% U.S. economic growth this year, and 3-3.5% in 2001. Globally, he says, every nation except Japan will register growth--and generate freight--this year.
On the negative side, Meil says some fleets have cancelled new truck orders because of fuel prices--a factor that could have a significant effect on 2000 Class 8 sales. Another concern: an oversupply of 25,000 used trucks that are holding resale prices down.
He said economists have timed a recession for 2003 "but that's a fire drill; it may not happen." He added that 2004-5 could beat 1999 truck sales.