Those big delivery trucks thundering down the nation's highways may not seem like major factors in any consideration of US inflation trends and economic growth. But for anyone who has ever had to ship a package from one city to another, questions of price and prompt delivery become anything but inconsequential.
For this reason, several recent steps in the transportation field are encouraging. Early last month a report by the Federal Trade Commission concluded that the deregulation of the trucking industry is coming along so well that it should be pursued ''until the regulatory framework for trucking is completely dismantled.''
Then, just a day or so later the Reagan administration called for the deregulation of the intercity bus industry, which unlike the trucking industry, remains regulated - in fact, the last of the major US transportation modes still operating under federal controls.
The limited success in trucking dereg-ulation, insist advocates of transportation deregulation in general, should lead to a deregulation of bus transportration as well. It can certainly be argued that the FTC report is a reminder that the competition growing out of trucking deregulation has helped create ''downward pressure on rates and forced firms to increase productivity.'' The report is also timely, given frequent charges about footdragging on truck deregulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission under a chairman appointed by Mr. Reagan, who was supported by the Teamsters. The union had opposed deregulation.
Whatever the degree of resistance at the ICC, however, the fact remains that partial deregulation has already worked profound changes in the $43 billion trucking industry. For starters, over 5,000 new truck companies have registered with the ICC since deregulation began several years ago. High wage scales in the industry have also fallen somewhat because of competition.
Congress and the administration should press ahead with trucking deregulation - while moving bus deregulation to the center lane as quickly as possible. The objective, after all, remains lower prices and better service.