Despite two disruptive snowstorms in two weeks, the local trucking industry seems to be driving down the road to recovery. Business is up from a year ago, new and used truck purchases are up, and companies are even doing some hiring.
Some local trucking companies say business is up enough that they've been able to raise rates and add drivers. But others complain that while business is up, rising fuel prices and other costs are threatening the benefit.
Tonnage hauled by the nation's trucks fell 20 percent in 2009, according to the American Trucking Associations. It has taken a toll on truckers big and small. The recession forced a lot of trucks off the road, many permanently.
Trucking employment fell 17 percent, and the number of trucking operations tracked by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics dropped 8 percent from the start of the recession in 2007 to 2010.
Harry Williams of Valley Center drove his own truck for decades but couldn't cope with skyrocketing fuel costs in 2008 and plunging business in 2009. He decided to retire.
"This is the worst I've ever seen in 50 years of driving," he said.
In 2010, trucking benefited strongly from the rebound in manufacturing, growing about 5 to 6 percent, twice the national growth rate. And lately, retailers have also seen growth as consumers have started buying again.
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