Executive Briefings

Trucking Companies Race to Add Capacity, Drivers as Market Heats Up

Trucking fleets are charging higher prices to move freight around the country. But it is an open question whether the companies or their drivers will reap the windfall.

With the economy humming, retailers and manufacturers are looking to hire thousands more trucks to haul clothing, construction equipment and other goods. Trucking companies can choose which loads to take on. In December, the most recent month for which data is available,? carriers charged? an average 22 percent more ?than they did a year ago in the spot market, where shippers can hire trucks on short notice, according to DAT ?Solutions LLC.

Investors expect all that to translate into an uptick in profits for trucking companies when they report fourth-quarter results over the next couple of weeks. Shares of many large trucking companies, including Werner Enterprises Inc. and Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., are trading at record highs.

There is just one hitch: Trucking companies can’t add capacity fast enough to take advantage of the flood of new business. Fleets say they are plowing a hefty portion of the extra revenue from shippers into recruiting drivers. Many expect to raise pay later this year. Even then, “unseated trucks” — big rigs that could be hired out but have nobody to drive them — are becoming more common.

Carriers are also investing in new equipment. In December, fleets ordered 37,500 big rigs, the highest monthly total in over three years, according to ACT Research.

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With the economy humming, retailers and manufacturers are looking to hire thousands more trucks to haul clothing, construction equipment and other goods. Trucking companies can choose which loads to take on. In December, the most recent month for which data is available,? carriers charged? an average 22 percent more ?than they did a year ago in the spot market, where shippers can hire trucks on short notice, according to DAT ?Solutions LLC.

Investors expect all that to translate into an uptick in profits for trucking companies when they report fourth-quarter results over the next couple of weeks. Shares of many large trucking companies, including Werner Enterprises Inc. and Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., are trading at record highs.

There is just one hitch: Trucking companies can’t add capacity fast enough to take advantage of the flood of new business. Fleets say they are plowing a hefty portion of the extra revenue from shippers into recruiting drivers. Many expect to raise pay later this year. Even then, “unseated trucks” — big rigs that could be hired out but have nobody to drive them — are becoming more common.

Carriers are also investing in new equipment. In December, fleets ordered 37,500 big rigs, the highest monthly total in over three years, according to ACT Research.

Read Full Article