47268942 – modern huge powerful drivers popular dark blue big rig semi-truck with a sleeping compartment and a periphery on a flat plane of the highway road on silhouette against the sky monochrome.

Trucking, which employs more than 10,000 New Yorkers, is one of the most sensitive sectors when it comes to changes in the economy. It tracks GDP closer than any other indicator. Its sharp recovery is an encouraging sign that the city is crawling out of the economic abyss.

“A lot of our members have recovered most or all of the business they lost,” said Kendra Hems, president of the Trucking Association of New York.

It’s a significant turnaround considering that in April truck traffic entering the city fell by 30%, according to Port Authority data, and the city’s nearest truck stop – the Vince Lombardi Travel Plaza on the New Jersey Turnpike – was practically vacant. In early July, YRC Worldwide, the nation’s fifth-largest trucking firm, only avoided bankruptcy thanks to a $700 million federal bailout.

The absence of truckers posed a major problem to the city because although New Yorkers are not particularly fond of road-hogging big-rigs, 90% of the city’s food arrives by truck. When the city was a Covid hotspot, truck drivers were told if they set foot in New York they wouldn’t be allowed to make other pickups elsewhere.

A hefty 35% jump in freight rates, tucked into prices for groceries and other goods, helped attract reluctant truckers from out of state. (Rates are understood to be now running at least 10% above normal.) Even in the pandemic’s darkest days in New York, most of the city’s local truck drivers – whose mean annual wage is $54,500 – continued to report for work to get deliveries onto supermarket shelves or into people’s apartments.

Now, the same number of trucks fill the city’s highways and streets as a year ago. July traffic was even slightly ahead of last year.

A “recovery” might seem puzzling since thousands of small businesses are still hurting badly, and unemployment remains high. But companies that weathered the storm are aggressively restocking inventories, and many benefitted from a spike in online orders as locked-down shoppers ordered more stuff at the height of the pandemic.

Source: Crain’s New York Business