U.S. trucking industry struggles with trade dispute impact
Updated 18:18, 05-Sep-2019
Daniel Williams

Early morning in Woodstock, Illinois, Chris Dahm is preparing to move a batch of soybeans. Dahm Trucking has been in operation since 1980. The company specializes in transporting agricultural products. But business has been down in recent years. "You wake up every morning and you can get depressed very easily," he said. 

The trade dispute between China and the United States has severely impacted the U.S. agricultural sector. And, in turn, that has had a knock-on effect on the U.S. trucking industry. “What we are seeing now is a lot less commodities being sold by the farmers … as they are holding on for better prices … so our volume of freight to haul is way, way down. So we are seeing a huge impact in that right now,” said Dahm.

U.S. agricultural exports to China have been cut in half since the trade war began, according to the American Farm Bureau, from nearly 20 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 to just over 9 billion in sales last year.

Chris Dahm of Dahm Trucking transports soybeans from the U.S. state of Illinois. /CGTN Photo

Chris Dahm of Dahm Trucking transports soybeans from the U.S. state of Illinois. /CGTN Photo

Trucking companies that specialize in moving agricultural products are on the front line of the trade dispute between China and the United States.

They're feeling the pinch now. But industry officials predict there may be more pain down the road, spreading to truckers hauling all sorts of goods.

Hoffman Transportation is a trucking company that specializes in transporting plastic products. It said as yet, the business is showing few signs of a downturn. But Don Schaefer, the executive vice president of the Mid-West Truckers Association, said it is inevitable that the trade dispute will impact other sectors.

The U.S. trucking industry faces a number of challenges in the coming years, not least the potential impact of advances in vehicle automation.

But for many, the focus remains on the now, as the trade dispute shows few signs of being resolved any time soon.

The U.S. trucking industry has proven to be resilient over the years. But the road ahead appears far from certain.