Vail Daily editorial: Waiting for trucks
A member of this newspaper’s editorial board drove from the Vail Valley to the Greeley area recently and had something that doesn’t quite rise to the level of an epiphany, but it might rate as an insight.
As you may have heard, there’s something of a construction boom going on in the Denver area. Around Greeley, there’s still a good deal of oil field activity despite the recent slowdown in that industry.
The result is trucks of virtually every stripe on what seems like every mile of highway in that part of the state. There are trucks ranging from one-ton pickups to the biggest of big rigs, carrying everything from tools to building supplies to tankers full of oil, water and other liquids.
The never-ending parade of trucks can make getting around inconvenient and, in some areas, somewhat dangerous. Those local-haul drivers always seem to be in a hurry, yet at the same time are often clogging the left lanes of four-lane highways in that part of the state. The number of those big vehicles makes swearing easy if you’re trying to make decent time.
But here’s the insight:
All those trucks are being driven for business. The people driving those vehicles are working, and they’re going to places where other work is being done. All that work is just about the best example you’ll find of an economy flexing its muscles. That real, industrial, strength is something that’s been lacking in much of the country for far too long. And the fact remains that labor force participation nationwide remains at 30-year lows, despite relatively encouraging unemployment numbers. For January, Eagle County’s rate was 3.4 percent, about what you’d expect in the midst of ski season. That was better than the state’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate and the national rate of 5.7 percent.
But remember, Eagle County lost thousands of payroll jobs when the downturn hit the valley full force. A lot of those people have left the valley and haven’t returned. And while our resorts are busy and construction is humming, that hum is at a different, less vibrant frequency.
Remember when we were regularly cursing gravel and delivery trucks in this valley? Hardly a week went by in someone’s office when some commuter didn’t bark about windshield or paint damage from one of those big haulers on U.S. Highway 6 or Interstate 70.
Then the slowdown hit our valley with a vengeance, and the truck traffic all but vanished.
Talking to people in the real estate and construction industries, few, if any, people want to see a return to the overheated days of 2006 or so. But the truck traffic in our valley, like the rest of the construction business, is continuing to build. Despite the hassles, it will be a good day when we again start hearing complaints about the truck traffic in our part of the world.