Owner-operator 2016 income stable, even with downturn

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Updated Nov 11, 2016

Owner-operator miles and earnings have been fairly level this year, according to the third -quarter report from ATBS, the nation’s largest owner-operator financial services company.

Leased flatbed operator clients of ATBS have enjoyed the biggest rise in net income per mile this year, earning 73 cents in the third quarter.Leased flatbed operator clients of ATBS have enjoyed the biggest rise in net income per mile this year, earning 73 cents in the third quarter.

“I think the most remarkable thing is that income is holding steady in a flat to down year for trucking,” says Todd Amen, president and CEO of ATBS.

Per-mile spot market rates have generally fallen since January, though all segments showed a slight rebound in the summer, according to monthly transaction data from Truckstop.com.

Economist Jonathan Starks said last week that the spot market appears to be moving in favor of carriers.

“Through the first three quarters of this year, we’re still well below 2015 for the number of loads in the system,” he told the Truckstop.com Connected 2016 user conference in Dallas. “However, the supply [of trucks] has gone down,” which should cause rates to rise.

Based on averages of thousands of leased and independent ATBS clients, monthly miles rose to 9,271 in the second quarter, from 9,083 in the first, when there is usually a seasonal slump. Third-quarter miles edged up to 9,371.

Average monthly revenue grew from $11,354 in the first quarter to $12,214 in the third. That growth was partially offset by rising fuel costs, but net income grew from $14,550 in the first quarter to $15,290 in the third. Net income per mile, though, rose only a penny, to 54 cents.

The biggest rise in income per mile over the three quarters has been for leased flatbed operators, 68 cents to 73 cents. Dry van rose from 51 cents to 53 cents. Reefer dropped from 43 cents to 40 cents.

Based on the third-quarter net income for ATBS clients, the annualized rate would be $61,160.

Median truck driver compensation, mostly for long-haul company drivers, rose to $53,988 in October, reports Glassdoor Economic Research, which uses several sources to track  labor market trends. That’s a 7.8 percent increase from a year earlier, compared to 2.8 percent increase in the overall labor market. The spread indicates that fleets have been aggressive with pay raises this year.

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