Written by Wagner Logistics' Chief Customer Officer John Wagner Jr.

Hi Friends,

Let me start this week’s blog by thanking all the members of the Wagner team for their performance over the last six months. Despite a deliberate crash in the economy and significant health concerns, you have come to work to care for our valued customers. Labor Day has come and gone but my admiration for the quiet dignity of our front-line workers endures. Thank you for “Bringing It” every day.

As the economy claws its way out of the depths of the April/May free fall the trucking industry is surging with rates exploding to the upside. Likewise, industrial real estate continues its climb as does labor cost.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that truck transportation jobs rose by a solid 10,000 in August on a seasonally adjusted basis after adjusting July jobs upward.

Despite slow rail volume, railroad employment increased as well. Seasonally adjusted rail jobs ticked upward, a reversal from their fairly relentless decline that goes back before the pandemic. They were reported at 145,400 jobs, up 100 jobs. I know, its small but shows a reversal in the trend.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Hi Friends,

When the freight market cratered in April and May, the Small Business Administration oversaw the disbursement of $7.6 billion in PPP loans to 11,738 trucking companies helping to bridge carriers from a nightmare market to today’s robust marketplace.

If transportation is the canary in the coal mine, it’s hard to believe that we are in a recession now. In fact, there are those who say we are no longer in recession.

Trucking capacity has tightened at a time when freight volume is growing making a perfect storm for shippers as they experience escalating freight rates. Shades of 2018!

I’m not looking at the world through rose colored glasses and realize that while the Covid pandemic seems to be easing, we still have massive unemployment and people are struggling as they face evictions and bankruptcy. My point is there is a lot of positive news if one is inclined to look for it even though the pandemic is long from finished.

The bottom line is that the good news is legitimate and reminds us that the economy is more resilient than many think. As Warren Buffet said, ‘don’t bet against the USA.’

Let’s look at the numbers.

Hi Friends,

Our country is facing growing doubts about the prospect for a sustained economic rebound due to the nation’s uneven public-health response to the coronavirus. Even as a trillion-dollar economic package evolves in Congress, the nation struggles with the biggest outbreak since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

Will states revert to the measures we saw in April? We don’t know, and that uncertainty continues as leaders seek a balance between public health and maintaining the economy/employment.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of data that points moving in a positive direction. With the resurgence of the virus it remains to be seen that these numbers will continue grow in a positive direction.

There is the Census Bureau’s report that retail sales jumped 7.5 percent in June after surging 18.2 percent in May.

And then there is the report that inventory throughout the supply chain, relative to sales, fell significantly in May (data is lagged one month) after spiking to an all-time high in April. While still elevated, the reduction is also a good signal for the supply chain. Don’t be surprised if it came down again in June, especially for retailers.     

Let’s look at more numbers.

Hi Friends,

People are returning to work and the economy is showing signs of improvement, but we have a long way to go until things get back to “normal”. Economists are predicting some semblance of normalcy in 2021. It hinges on finding a vaccine so that people feel safe resuming their routines of shopping, working in an office, attending a concert, going to a sporting event, or just having friends over dinner.

The economy opened somewhat nationally but now we are seeing states like California reining back their opening plans. Florida, Arizona, and Texas are seeing a surge in virus cases, so the future is uncertain.

In the meantime, industries have resumed business, retail sales are climbing, and jobs are being reinstated. As an example: year-over-year June 2019, retail sales were up 1.1 percent, the first time since February that retail sales posted a year-over-year gain.

This is reflected in the higher volume of freight moving across the country.

Let’s look at some numbers.

Hi Friends,

After the disaster that was the second quarter, I’m looking forward to seeing improvement in Q3. We have election backbiting, resurgent Covid, civil unrest, and killer hornets as mood killers but make no mistake, the economy is slowly returning to positive territory.

Retail is bouncing back; housing is rebounding and manufacturing is gaining. Consumers are spending and durable goods orders look good. The ISM Index for June got back above 50 (51.3), indicating growth returning and exceeding expectations

Remember that in the history of our country we have always found a way to get through our troubles and bounce back. From my family to yours, let me wish you a happy, safe, Independence Day!

Let’s look at the numbers as we have a longer than usual list of data points.

Hi Friends,

With all the trouble in our nation, the economy is trying to recover.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that real disposable personal incomes jumped 13.4 percent in April after falling 1.8 percent in March. Wages and salaries for employees contracted 8 percent on top of March’s 3.5 percent drop. The money came from two government sources: stimulus checks and unemployment insurance. The latter jumped by more than 500 percent in one month while the former increased by 491 percent.

Despite these shocking numbers, they will eventually support the economy through spending even if it didn’t happen during the month the money was doled out.      

As for the protests that have erupted over the past week, I stand on the side of Dr. King and peaceful displays of protest as we strive for equality. For me, I’m keeping the faith that our great nation will overcome these challenges.

As for the economy, let’s get into some numbers.

Hi Friends,

It is easy to slip into utter despair at this point but remember that this remains an artificial recession as the government hit the “off switch”, it was not caused by an economic bubble burst. This one will end to some degree when the business community can restart. There will be a recovery, but the real question is how much of the damage will be considered permanent.

For us at Wagner Logistics, we are a resilient group that has weathered a lot over our 74 years in business. 100 percent of our focus is keeping our employees safe, our customers operational, and our financial health rock solid. We adapt.

Keeping positive in the face of an unattractive future isn’t easy as we see the economic destruction, bankruptcies soar and American consumers, the lifeblood of economic vitality in America, psychologically scarred from the impact of the pathogen that has infected more than 3.7 million people (1.2 million in the U.S. alone).

Freight volume has tanked for truckers and railroads with spot pricing fell off the cliff. Expect smaller motor carriers to leave the market as the rates fall below the cost of operating. Many companies can hang on due to the Paycheck Protection Program money received from Uncle Sam.

Let’s look at the numbers. The reporting is longer than usual but there’s a lot of info available.

Hi Friends,

The global economy is in a meltdown, we find ourselves in the worst black swan event ever experienced in modern times. The U.S. flipped the off switch on the economy, and we have gone from historic low unemployment to a new high, almost 20+ percent by the time all the numbers come in.

As motivation to retain employees, Congress has added $470 billion in aid with $310 billion of that to go to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which was created by the CARES Act stimulus law and offers guarantees for forgivable loans to small businesses if a majority of the money is used to retain employees.

Despite these efforts, plants have shuttered, retailers without strong eCommerce operations are failing, and every segment of the travel and hospitality/service industry is shattered. Likewise, the freight market is in free fall and oil prices are negative.

At Wagner Logistics, we are fully operational and blessed to have strong customer business allowing us to persevere through this economic disaster. Hard work and perseverance will allow Wagner to survive and thrive as we have over the last 74 years.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Hi Friends,

First, I sincerely hope that everyone reading this blog is healthy and safe.

Federal and local governments have pushed the economic pause button in the U.S. as the COVID-19 outbreak impacts U.S. businesses as well as the entire global economy.

At Wagner Logistics, we are continuing to operate safely doing our part to keep the national supply chains fluid under the "essential business" exemption as a transportation and logistics service provider to our customers.

I am seeing replenishment efforts surging. DAT reports that the demand for trucks is rising as the national average van load-to-truck ratio last week was 3.5, up from 3.2 the previous week. That’s the eighth straight week of rising ratios. More dramatically, the average ratio has more than doubled (up 150 percent) since the same week in 2019.

Clearly, the trucking industry is being tested during these difficult times. From lack of facility access for drivers to wash their hands, lack of parking, wait times stretched for loading/unloading, to the unbalancing of lanes due to emergency one-way runs, truckers are making it happen under dire circumstances.

Most economic data were collected before the full brunt of the outbreak hit in early March, so a rearview exercise is almost meaningless. Most of the nation is in lock down mode, I’m expecting a recession followed by a strong recovery in Q3 & Q4. The enormous two trillion dollars the government is injecting will be a significant help.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Hi Friends,

The world is on edge due to the coronavirus pandemic. I’m trying to be prepared and realistic but also optimistic. I’m allowing myself a degree of excitement about things I’ve been looking forward to, even if they are delayed a few months.

Regardless, people have been clearing store shelves in parts of the country as if they were preparing for a hurricane. Whether or not one believes the virus is significant threat to national health or not, the reaction is real.

This mass purchasing has spiked trucking volumes in the U.S. as the national Outbound Tender Volume Index increased 9.3 percent last week to hit a level normally only seen around a holiday period in the summer or winter according to FreightWaves.

Stay healthy as we look at the current landscape.