U.S. Economy Keep on Trucking’ Even Without Drivers

According to Market Watch, if the nine-year-old U.S. expansion finally grinds to a halt, a lack of truck drivers is likely to be a culprit in fouling up the gears of the economy.

A shortage of truck drivers has been building for several years, but now the problem is especially acute. Companies increasingly complain about longer delivery times for supplies and rising transportation costs — costs that could lead to higher prices for consumers and more inflation.

“The supply chain is shuttering because of a lack of drivers and equipment causing delays in multiple modes of transportation,” a wholesale-industry executive told the Institute of Supply Management in its May survey of service-oriented businesses. Another executive said flat-beds are especially in short supply.

The Federal Reserve’s period survey of economic conditions across the country has also pointed to a scarcity of truck drivers. In the mid-Atlantic region stretching from Maryland to South Carolina, for example, the Fed said: “driver shortages have led some trucking companies to turn some business away.” The problem isn’t going away anytime soon, either.

An industry trade group says the U.S. needs at least 30,000 additional drivers to handle all the goods being transported, a number that is expected to increase as older truckers retire. More than half of the nation’s estimated 3.5 million truckers are 45 or older. And almost all are men.

Yet recruitment of new drivers has fallen short owing in part to broad changes in society. More people than ever go to college, fewer and fewer Americans move each year and many are not interested in all the travel involved. Truckers are often away for days or weeks at a time, making it hard for families. Transportation companies are raising wages and benefits to try to attract more drivers, but it’s only a partial panacea.

A Call for Ethical Intervention

According to Crux, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople called on Christians to work together to build a culture of solidarity in the face of growing economic inequality and a lack of respect for the human dignity of the poor and of migrants.

The two leaders met privately May 26 before addressing an international conference sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, which seeks to promote the teaching of St. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical on social and economic justice.

“The current difficulties and crises within the global economic system have an undeniable ethical dimension,” Francis told some 500 business leaders, theologians and proponents of Catholic social teaching.

The crises clearly “are related to a mentality of egoism and exclusion that has effectively created a culture of waste blind to the human dignity of the most vulnerable,” the pope said.

A “growing ‘globalization of indifference’” is seen in the uneven pace of development, “not only in materially poorer countries but increasingly amid the opulence of the developed world,” he said. It also is obvious in people’s reactions to migrants and refugees.

In his speech to the gathering, Bartholomew insisted that Christianity is “essentially social. Faith is not limited only to the ‘soul’ without any interest for the social dimension, but rather, it also plays a pivotal role at the level of society.”

The Orthodox and Catholic churches, he said, promote spiritual values and charitable activity, but they also teach “the principles of the respect of the person, solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good.”

But, he said, the world today – as seen in the global economic system and the continued destruction of the environment – is experiencing a “crisis of solidarity” that threatens humanity’s very existence.

Bartholomew condemned what he described as the “‘fundamentalism of the market,’ the deification of profit, the association of dignity with the property, the reduction of the human being to ‘homo oeconomicus’ and the subordination of the human person to the tyranny of needs.”

Liverpool’s economy

According to City Metric, the first thing to note: that Liverpool result wasn’t a fluke. There’s a huge bounce into 2009, which suggests that the 2008 European Capital of Culture award may have been a big help to the city. But while it falls back as the crash beds in and austerity bites, it’s growing strongly again from 2020 and ends the chart in fourth place. By 2016, its economy had grown by more than a quarter.

What of the rest? It won’t surprise anyone to see that London is in the first place, or that Bristol – the only other southern English city listed – is running it close. Both economies have expanded fairly steadily (although I’d love to know what happened in Bristol in 2014). The great recession barely touched them, and the western city has probably benefited, too, from people and jobs getting priced out of the capital, McDonald’s Customers Survey Guide.

As to the other national capitals, Edinburgh had a wobble in 2009-10 but bounced back fairly strongly. With Cardiff, the story is more interesting. Viewed in terms of its progress since 1998, its economy is one of Britain’s star performers. Starting the clock later, though, and we can see it had a tough recession, and its economy took several years to get back to its 2007 value.

Britain’s largest cities outside London, Manchester, and Birmingham, are in the middle of the pack. The former has expanded fairly consistently, if unimpressively; the latter had a harder crash but a stronger rebound. Both those things probably fit with what we already knew about them. It’s at the bottom of the league table that the other surprise lies: the cities of Yorkshire are in trouble.

It’s no shock that Sheffield should be pulling up the rear – it’s consistently the most economically troubled of Britain’s major cities, struggling not just with industrial decline but also poor infrastructure and physical isolation.