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Economists offer an academic view of the economy—they know the numbers, the rates, and the interest. But if you want to know the reality behind those numbers and find out what's happening on the ground, there's only one view: the trucker's view. Cliff Hagedon owns Fort Gratiot Express trucking; he carries freight across the nation. The more people buy, the busier he is.
"We have to use load boards to find freight, whether I want to go to New York, or I want to go to Florida, or I want to go to Texas."
Load boards are systems used by truckers to find loads in need of transport. After completing a delivery, a driver may search for their next load to be delivered in that city or surrounding area. This protects drivers from the money-losing situation of operating with an empty trailer when going to the next location.
"Right now, I am looking in Meridian, Mississippi, and there are, within a 150-mile radius, 47 loads and 73 trucks that need to be loaded."
This is a much different situation than Hagedon saw one year ago. The key is the ratio between loads and available trucks. "A year ago, I would have been seeing 50 loads and 250 trucks."
While Hagedon jokingly admits that he is not an economist, he sees this change as a possible leading indicator of economic recovery. "I don't believe that we're completely out of the recession, but we are making a huge turn."
"I know for a fact that food commodities are really soaring right now, possibly because more people are eating at home."
"The one that isn't starting to take off real fast is what we call the flatbed division." A big portion of flatbed-delivered items come from the home construction industry, reinforcing the prediction that housing will be one of the lagging sectors in the economic recovery.
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.Rockefeller Foundation and its Campaign for American Workers.