Well, 2017 is over and today is the beginning of another year.
I was happy to greet the New Year since last year was full of drama and disasters — O.J. Simpson was paroled, sexual harassment and assault charges were made against more than 40 high-profile men in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., and North Korea launched several ballistic missiles.
On the destruction side, the nation endured hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria in addition to California's battling record-setting wildfires, but we all got to marvel at the first total solar eclipse in the U.S. since 1979.
If you're like me, you looked in the mirror this morning and recognized the fact that a diet is in the forecast for the immediate future.
But you're also probably wondering, "What's in the offing for the commercial tire and trucking industries this year?"
The good thing is that the trucking and tire industries are leaving a relatively strong year behind and are starting out 2018 in pretty good shape.
But what does the future hold? Will 2018 be a good year, or one that is looming with more drama and disaster? I am reminded of the old Spanish proverb, "He who does not look ahead remains behind."
So maybe I should look into my crystal ball and see what's in store for us in 2018.
Economy to stay strong
We left 2017 with the economy performing well. The gross domestic product, which measures the nation's production output, grew at 2.5 percent for the year.
However, it should be noted that it picked up to a better than a 3-percent pace in the second and third quarters, its best six-month stretch in three years. GDP growth in 2018 is expected to continue at a strong 2.5 percent rate.
Businesses on average added 174,000 jobs a month last year, dropping the unemployment rate to 4.1 percent, a 17-year low.
It is expected that the unemployment rate will drop to perhaps as low as 3.9 percent in 2018 and will be helped by the tax-cut plan that Congress passed prior to Christmas.
As far as inflation goes, it was 1.7 percent in 2017 and is expected to climb to 1.9 percent in 2018. This is close to the Federal Reserve's 2-percent target inflation rate and gives it room to raise rates to a more normal level.
As a result, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December for the third time in the past year to 1.5 percent, which was a vote of confidence for an economy that perked up in the second half.
This move will nudge up interest rates for credit cards, adjustable-rate mortgages and home-equity lines of credit.
However, it should be mentioned that some Fed officials expect inflation to pick up as employers boost pay more rapidly in their struggle to find workers.
Truck tonnage surging
One year ago, the truckload market was sluggish with many more trucks and freight available to move.
Today, the tables have turned, with greater demand, higher freight rates and tightening capacity.
Truck tonnage surged 7.6 percent year-over-year in November after a 10.5-percent increase in October, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
This growth over the last four months of 2017 indicates that this past holiday spending season might be the best in several years. It also shows that other parts of the economy are doing well, including business investment, factory output and construction, especially in the housing market, which increased sales to the highest point since 1999.
As for 2018 the good news for trucking is that U.S. manufacturing is forecast to increase faster than the general economy, at a 2.8-percent clip.
This is great news since manufacturing generates freight tonnage, and improved inventory levels throughout the supply chain will continue to spur tonnage growth.
Fuel prices to inch up