Trucking firms report upswing

Federal and private research released in September indicates a recent improvement in trucking activity and an upbeat outlook for carriers in the immediate future.

In the most recent Federal Reserve report, the Cleveland district reported improved revenues for trucking companies and moderate freight volume increases through August compared with a year earlier. Still, freight transport executives said the recent rate of
growth is slowing. While some were able to get rate increases, current
hiring was for replacement workers only rather than adding new employees.

Several contacts said tractors and trailer prices are substantially higher because of new environmental rules, which could delay purchasing replacement equipment until 2011.

The Fed’s Atlanta district trucking companies reported improved revenues and moderate freight volumes through August compared with a year earlier. Dallas’ district shipping firms said small parcel cargo volume increased, but large freight shipments declined. Intermodal transportation firms reported a modest increase in shipments.

Robert W. Baird & Co. reported freight recovery because of economic expansion, which when coupled with an aging fleet, could result in an upswing in truck purchases.

ACT Research Co. said truckload carriers reported prices rose month-over-month for the seventh consecutive month, which could lead to increased equipment replacement.

Transport Capital Partners’ third-quarter survey of carrier expectations indicated a generally positive outlook for the next 12 months compared to the last 12 months.

Three-quarters of carriers surveyed with more than $25 million in revenue expected volumes to increase, while 60 percent of smaller carriers anticipated an upward swing. Two-thirds of all carriers surveyed thought rates will climb over the next year.