January 30, 2008 / 4:19 PM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 1-YRC CEO: U.S. recession odds probably above 50-50

(Adds executive comment, background on trucking sector and economy, stock action)

CHICAGO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. economy is more than likely headed for a recession due to to high fuel costs, interest rates and the housing crisis, the top executive of North America’s largest trucking company said on Wednesday.

“The odds are now probably better than 50-50 that we will see a textbook definition recession of two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth,” YRC Worldwide Inc (YRCW.O) Chief Executive Bill Zollars told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Zollars added that the company’s freight volumes appear to have hit bottom, “but the question is how long we’re going to stay there.”

The CEO of the Overland Park, Kansas-based company said that the less-than-truckload operator’s customers have been hurt by a combination of high fuel costs, high interest rates and the U.S. housing sector meltdown.

“All of these factors have had a cumulative effect on consumers and our customers,” Zollars said.

Less-than-truckload operators consolidate smaller loads into a single truck.

The U.S. trucking industry has seen weak freight volumes since the third quarter of 2006 due to falling auto sales, lackluster retail sales and overall slowing U.S. economic growth.

Trucking companies are on the front line of the U.S. economy. They tend to benefit first from an uptick in economic growth, but are also the first to suffer when things start to slow.

U.S. economic growth in 2007 slid to the lowest level in five years, according to a government report issued on Wednesday.

YRC shares were up a penny at $16.24 in mid-morning Nasdaq trading. (Reporting by Nick Carey, editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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