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A trucker's view of the US economy

GreenwoodLymanBig SpringsProvoBeaverLas VegasYermoLos Angeles

How do you measure the state of the world's biggest economy? The IMF thinks US growth will slow this year and fears of a recession have unsettled markets. But what do the people think? The BBC's Matthew Price hitched a ride on a freight truck across six states, and asked those he met on the road.

GREENWOOD, NEBRASKA

Ann Corey

It is cold in Greenwood. Bright sunshine, and massive blue skies, but there's ice underfoot, and snow by the side of the road.

Inside the shop attached to Cubby's diner they sell souvenir mugs, with Nebraska scenes painted on the side. Each is covered in dirt and dust. Not many tourists pass through here.

There are some people in the diner, but the assistant manager Ann Corey tells me she's feeling the pinch in her life and her customers feel the same.

DuWayne Marshall

DuWayne Marshall, the trucker we're travelling with, stopped smoking seven years ago, so we sit in the back of Cubby's diner - in the non-smoking section - with a few of his trucking friends. Breakfast is standard trucker fare: eggs, bacon, toast, coffee.

The average life expectancy for a trucker is just 55 we're told. No wonder, judging by the diet. And their work schedule. These drivers have hard lives, and they are getting harder.

BIG SPRINGS, NEBRASKA

Dayna Crandall

The women in the Big Springs service station all got a bit embarrassed when we walked in with our camera running. They don't get much media attention out here in the heart of the countryside.

But like everyone I spoke to, Dayna Crandall gets talking when you mention the economy. It seems everyone is being affected to some degree. The general picture is one of rising costs, less money, and a fear of job losses - or at least fewer working hours, so less money.

DuWayne Marshall

It really is desolate here. This is wide open farming country. Flat, big, empty. It takes a lot of time and money to drive these massive distances. We trucked along Interstate 80, CB radios chattering away. I won't repeat the jokes they made. The only clean one was about bad American beer!

At the first of several fuel stops, DuWayne fills up with almost $600 of diesel. In the last year he spent roughly $85,000 on fuel. And it's a rising cost.

LYMAN, WYOMING

Jim Marshall

Nebraska was desolate, but Wyoming feels so far away from anywhere. Certainly a long, long way from Wall Street and the recent market problems.

So it's a bit of a surprise when Jim Marshall, who runs the Gas-n-Go (he spelt out the "dashes" for me, and the "n"), starts talking about macro economics and the value of the euro versus the dollar and what it means for him.

Dave

I think it's getting colder. There's a blue car with its bonnet up, and steam is pouring out of it. The driver, Dave, has been trying to fix the overheating for a good half hour now.

For now he's stuck here in the cold, as the snow sets in. But he's pretty calm about it, and about the economic situation. Interestingly here there's enough work, on the farms, in the mines, and the like. Wyoming has so few people. That probably helps!

PROVO, UTAH

Ione, Lehi, Wayne Hintze

The main drag through Provo is classic America, with every fast food outlet you could want, or not want, and countless shops and supermarkets selling pretty much anything you might need.

It feels fairly affluent here. It's a Mormon university town. The Hintze family are coming out of one restaurant. They're retired and have been lucky enough to have savings in the bank, but even they are feeling the economic pressure.

BEAVER, UTAH

Vicki Hutchings

Beaver's a really good illustration of what happens when the highway takes traffic out of your main street and you lose the business that used to generate. It's very quiet, and is not the most well off of places. The shops are few and far between, there's the odd restaurant, but it all looks pretty run down.

I don't think many people here have much in the way of savings to speak of. In fact broadly speaking the savings rate across this country is zero. That's OK in the good times, but in bad times it spells disaster. Not that Vicki Hutchings seems too worried.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Matthew Price

Now we're trucking through Vegas. After the cold and desolate north, it feels pretty surreal. Out of the darkness, and the vast expanses, the bright lights of this sprawling city emerged ahead of us.

We've been two days on the road, with just stunning scenery to look at, and all of a sudden emerging from the natural landscape is the most unnatural city - Las Vegas. It's one of the richest, brashest, most capitalist cities on earth. It almost feels obscene, after talking to people back up the road about how hard times are.

YERMO, CALIFORNIA

A diner

I love the desert. It's windy today, but still with the promise of sunshine and warmth.

Penny's Dinner is your classic American breakfast stop. Gleaming metal, rounded edges, a real treasure. Inside it's bright and clean. It feels as if people here are better off than we found up in the north. Still there are worries.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Cindy Yamamato

The end of the road! And we find the employees at DuWayne's first drop-off point tucking into Chinese food.

The workers here are either born in China or are American born Chinese, and the warehouse is also full of Latino immigrants. The firm imports from and exports to China.

Since some economists think there's a shift going on in the global economy right now, with the US consuming less and the Chinese starting to consume more, it's an interesting place to find out whether this company is noticing any difference.

DuWayne Marshall

DuWayne's been a great source of chat and knowledge and insight for the last three days, and the 1,600 miles we have travelled together.

So there's only one question left.

Is he worried about the state of the US economy?



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