Sunday, January 11, 2009

DHL shipping service as an economic indicator

DHL, the shipping company.

For reasons I can’t explain, the cheerful yellow DHL delivery trucks driving up and down University Drive seemed to signify a bustling economy and a beacon of constancy. DHL was an integral part of the “global village,” as those trucks seemingly delivered to even the remotest outpost. In German, DHL is (or maybe was) the Deutscheposte contractor, essentially the hired gun of the federal postal service.

(I never stopped marveling that packages from Wuhan or X’ian China, were delivered in three days by DHL, while a package to Seattle took a week (and then some) via first class mail US Postal Service.)

Battered by high fuel prices and then by the recession, DHL has essentially ceased domestic operations in the United States. The drop boxes are gone from the academic buildings. No longer can I count on looking out my office window and be almost guaranteed to see a yellow van driving purposefully to its next stop. Last week in my neighborhood, I glimpsed a characteristic sunny-looking van without the red DHL logo or characteristc markings. It was only when I drew close and saw the yellow-and-red jacketed driver that I could verify it was DHL.

It turns out the yellow DHL trucks were actually the yellow miners' canaries of the economy.