Too much of a good thing?

Updated Sep 25, 2013

There’s probably not a trucking executive alive who doesn’t wish –perhaps against his better judgment — for more freight, even if his company already has more than it can handle. It’s just part of his DNA. So the results of a new survey released Sept. 24 by global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group should bring a smile to every trucker’s face.

According to BCG’s survey of more than 200 decision makers at U.S.-based manufacturing firms with sales more than $1 billion, manufacturers are moving toward moving production back to the United States from Canada — a trend known as “reshoring.” In the latest survey conducted in August, 54 percent either plan or are actively considering reshoring. That’s up from 37 percent when BCG conducted a similar survey in February 2012.

The notion of reshoring is not new, and BCG found that it is already happening. When asked whether they expect to move production in light of rising wages in China, 21% of respondents — about twice as many as in 2012 -— said they are “actively doing this” or that they “will move production to the U.S. in the next two years.”

There’s little doubt that if this trend is real, it will be a huge boon to the trucking industry. After all, nothing drives trucking activity like manufacturing. Freight rates and utilization would soar.

But could the industry handle it? Good drivers are hard to find already. A rejuvenated manufacturing industry not only would spur demand for drivers but also would to some degree drain that very supply by creating new jobs for would-be truck drivers. True, automation will limit the demand for new manufacturing jobs, but it’s still hard to imagine getting enough drivers.

The problem may solve itself, however. If we really are looking at a new age of American manufacturing, trucking companies might just be able to afford substantial pay rises for truck drivers.