America runs on optimism

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I know, I know: can there be a more ultimate cliché than “America runs on optimism”? I’m sure more than few truckers would roll their eyes reading that string of four words.

Yet I also believe a large majority would more than likely nod their heads quietly in agreement. I mean, trucking is a business that NEEDS optimism, just as much as diesel, tires, gearboxes and above all freight.

A driver gets a load over here and must bring it over there – and deliver it on time despite whatever gets thrown in his or her path, be it foul weather, traffic congestion, a flat tire, you name it.

Drivers more than anyone else on the road exude optimism – the “can do” attitude at the heart of the American spirit. Any trucker I’ve ever talked to has always shared a tale of “the load that went bad” and how they corrected the situation … followed by them going right back to a dock somewhere to hitch up to yet another trailer for yet another haul.

That’s not to say truck drivers—much less dispatchers, shop technicians, even the executives in the corner suite – don’t get as gloomy and grumpy as any other human on the planet. It’s just that, at the end of a bad freight day, many seem to give themselves a shake as if to say, “Well that’s over so it can’t get any worse,” and prepare to pilot their big rig down the asphalt once again.

What sparked my soliloquy (if it can be called that) on trucking optimism are some of the combined results revealed by the Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor over the past three years – a series of surveys polling a representative statistical sample of 1,000 to 1,200 Americans to try and uncover their take concerning the continued economic turmoil affecting the U.S.

Surprisingly – but actually not so surprising to me – most of the Americans polled in this survey(conducted for Allstate and the National Journal by Ed Reilly and Jeremy Ruch of FTI Strategic Communications by the way) remain decidedly upbeat, even as they struggle to pay bills and worry about their financial future.

In short, despite the tough times, they’ve tightened their belts, wedged their feet a little deeper in the earth, and are prepared to just keep on rolling with the punches:

  • Although a majority of Americans (57%) are pessimistic about the current direction of the country, a full 60% believe that their own financial well-being is determined by their actions and not events out of their control.
  • Indeed, a plurality (40%) of Americans say that the best way to increase their own opportunity is through their own efforts, like doing a good job, increasing one's skill-set, and obtaining more education.
  • That being said, though, nearly one-in-five (17%) Americans say they have a hard time making ends meet each month, with another 52% indicating that while they get by each month, they find it is difficult to save and invest for the future.
  • As a result, over 60% of Americans in the Monitor survey indicate they have had to cut back on spending for things such as eating out, clothing, and vacations in order to pay down debt or not acquire new debt.
  • Yet despite all of that, more than three-in-five (62%) Americans still believe that the economy will improve over the next 12 months.
  • On top of that general optimism, a plurality (44%) of Americans expect that their personal financial situation will improve by next year, with only around one-in-ten (12%) indicating that they think they will be worse off.
  • Here’s another good one: African-Americans (72%) and Hispanics (59%) are much more likely than Whites (38%) to believe that their financial situation will improve by next year. Americans aged 18-44 (55%) also believe their situation will improve.
  • One-third of Americans (34%) believe the U.S. will have the world's strongest economy 20 years from now, roughly in line with those who hold similar expectations of China's economy (37%).
  • Respondents cited higher education system (74%), science and research (66%), workforce (56%) and corporate leaders (57%) as America's key strengths.
  • A solid 44% of Americans believe that compared to their parents they have had more opportunity to get ahead, with 24% percent indicating they have had about the same amount of opportunity.
  • Despite the economic headwinds, three-in-five (60%) Americans indicate they are currently living the “American Dream.”

If all of that above, taken together, doesn’t represent some serious optimism, I don’t know what does. And it’s that kind of positive thinking keeps our nation pulling forward, pressing down on the accelerator and shifting the gears upward towards a better tomorrow. 

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