LaRue Mitchell and her husband Mike, who recently leased on to Landstar, are optimistic about 2003. That’s even with the “financial crunch” the Fort Collins, Colo., owner-operators are experiencing from changing their lease. Still, she says: “It’s going to look good because we’re positive people.”
LaRue was just one of several owner-operators we asked to peer into their crystal balls to see what 2003 might bring. Despite the difficulties of the past few years, the owner-operators we spoke with were unanimously positive:
An optimistic bunch, to be sure. And if trucking economist Martin Labbe is right, they may have reason to be. Rates, Labbe told attendees at the American Trucking Associations annual meeting in October, are improving. One reason? Since so many carriers and owner-operators went out of business in recent years, “there are fewer chickens chasing the same kernel of corn,” he said.
Although there are fewer carriers available to move freight, the good news, stock analyst Donald Broughton told ATA attendees, is that “no one’s talking about adding capacity.” Instead, Broughton said carriers are focusing on better utilization and getting higher rates.
Another positive: Labbe and Broughton said pay will go up as carriers compete for a smaller pool of drivers and owner-operators. Labbe predicted driver wages will increase 25 percent by the end of 2004.
Though economic indicators have been mixed in 2002, the downturn you suffered through for more than two years could end in 2003. Since you’ve made it this far, you’re well-positioned to benefit when carriers with limited capacity start scrambling to keep busy shippers happy. As Tom Kretsinger, head of the Truckload Carriers Association’s Independent Contractor Division, told TCA this fall: “Owner-operators are more in demand than ever before.”