While a global supply chain crisis is crimping sales for companies from Apple Inc. to Caterpillar Inc., transportation firms are riding an unprecedented profit boom.
Trucking companies, in particular, have seen freight volume and prices jump as imported goods flood into the U.S., easily making up for higher wages to recruit drivers. The spike in fuel is passed along to their customers through automatic surcharges.
To get a sense of how well the sector is doing, look no further than the hyperbolic headlines of analyst reports.
Saia Inc. “blows the doors off” in the third quarter, wrote Cowen Inc. analyst Jason Seidl after the company’s profit soared 92% from a year earlier. Schneider National Inc.’s 100% profit gain was “a Lambeau Leap,” said Susquehanna analyst Bascome Majors, referring to the touchdown celebration by pro football players in the trucker’s home town of Green Bay. Hub Group Inc., which transports cargo containers, is “full speed ahead” after earnings jumped 73%, Majors noted.
The profit surge isn’t limited to truckers. Railroads, freight brokers and maritime shipping companies are all feasting on the more than 20% surge of imported goods and growing desperation of shippers to get their items on time.
And the choke points? The finger-pointing tends to land on the shippers and a dearth of warehouse workers to unload containers and get them back on the road.
“That’s where there is a significant bottleneck, is our customers’ ability to unload the demand that they have,” John Roberts, chief executive officer of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., said last month in a conference call after third-quarter profit jumped by 59% from a year earlier.
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