Looking for signs of economic recovery? Try counting the number of trucks on the road.
Trucks carry almost all the manufactured and retail goods in the country - from refrigerators to lumber, detergents to toys. Many economists gauge how fast assembly lines are running, and how much consumers are buying, by the volume of goods hauled by trucks. But the most recent earnings reports show trucks are not carrying enough yet to indicate recovery is near.
Slow consumer spending and stalled manufacturing activity took its toll on truckers in the first three months of the year. Nearly all major trucking companies reported lower first-quarter revenue and falling profits as the recession continued and shipping demand slid. Many cut back their fleets because of soft demand. Werner Enterprises Inc., for example, said it trimmed an additional 4 percent of its fleet of over 8,000 trucks in the first quarter. Many companies said more cuts will come.