It's not often you see articles about the health of the trucking industry in your local paper, but I suppose with big industry names like U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport, Chattanooga might be expected to be an exception.
U.S. Xpress co-chairs Max Fuller and Pat Quinn.
U.S. Xpress co-chairs Max Fuller and Pat Quinn.

In a Sunday article in its business section, Ellis Smith of the Chattanooga Times Free Press offers a solid piece on the state of the industry, noting that two years after coming to "a screeching halt ... experts predict that the trucking industry could start expanding at 3 percent to 5 percent, as the new year marks something of a return to normalcy."

Ellis looks not just at the local trucking business -- Xpress and Covenant Transport say they're anticipating more demand for their services in the new year, he says -- but also at national economic and industry trends, such as a solid 2010 holiday shopping season.

On the other hand, he points out, there are regulatory challenges, the likelihood of a driver shortage, and increasingly expensive equipment, which means higher costs to be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher freight rates.

"We're the barometer," said Glen Kedzie of the American Trucking Associations, as quoted in the Chattanooga article. "When the economy starts picking up, we find out first." And truckers now are "starting to feel more confident," he said.

Pat Quinn, president and co-chairman of U.S. Xpress, told the paper, "We're not back to where we were prerecession."