Executive Briefings

Shortage of Drivers May Weigh on Earnings of Trucking Companies

Trucking companies are convincing shippers to pay more to move freight, but difficulty finding drivers could weigh on earnings.

Analysts expect rising driver pay and storm disruptions to eat into what would otherwise be stronger third-quarter results for truckload carriers. The freight market has picked up as manufacturing activity expands and retailers restock inventories in advance of the holiday season. For-hire truck tonnage jumped 8.2 percent in August compared with the same time in 2016, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the American Trucking Associations.

Meanwhile, trucking capacity has tightened after a long stretch when too many big-rigs were competing for cargo. Hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida have exacerbated the crunch, diverting trucks from other regions and sending prices soaring on the spot market, where companies book transportation on a daily basis.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., one of the largest U.S. freight carriers and the first major fleet to report results this quarter, said net earnings fell 8.2 percent in the third quarter. The company cited storm disruptions and accelerating driver wages and recruitment costs, among other factors.

J.B. Hunt shares fell 4 percent to $104.01 the day of the earnings report, and the company’s weaker-than-expected results sent other trucking stocks lower. Schneider National Inc. shares were down 2.1 percent, while Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. shares fell 3.1 percent.

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Analysts expect rising driver pay and storm disruptions to eat into what would otherwise be stronger third-quarter results for truckload carriers. The freight market has picked up as manufacturing activity expands and retailers restock inventories in advance of the holiday season. For-hire truck tonnage jumped 8.2 percent in August compared with the same time in 2016, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the American Trucking Associations.

Meanwhile, trucking capacity has tightened after a long stretch when too many big-rigs were competing for cargo. Hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida have exacerbated the crunch, diverting trucks from other regions and sending prices soaring on the spot market, where companies book transportation on a daily basis.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., one of the largest U.S. freight carriers and the first major fleet to report results this quarter, said net earnings fell 8.2 percent in the third quarter. The company cited storm disruptions and accelerating driver wages and recruitment costs, among other factors.

J.B. Hunt shares fell 4 percent to $104.01 the day of the earnings report, and the company’s weaker-than-expected results sent other trucking stocks lower. Schneider National Inc. shares were down 2.1 percent, while Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. shares fell 3.1 percent.

Read Full Article