Owner-operator 2016 business outlook trends pessimistic

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2015-11-03 16.50.24
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How owner-operators see business trending in 2016

Dennis Schaaf, among readers commenting on business prospects in this new year at Overdrive‘s Facebook page last week, reflected a trend toward a pessimistic outlook following a 2015 that didn’t exactly live up to expectations as they stood this time last year, when almost 4 in 10 readers were looking out into 2015 expecting a better business year than 2014. Only 3 in 10, approximately, said the same last week, as shown in the poll above. The decline in optimism marks a downward trend among owner-operators’ views on the wider economy and their own business prospects within it now two years running — at the end of 2013, a solid majority of owner-operators (54 percent) remained optimistic heading into 2014.

“2016 doesn’t look to be any better than 2015,” Schaaf wrote. “More rules and regulations” to contend with, plus “DOT blitzes finding imaginary infractions only to steal our money. Low freight rates, and rough roads.”

Michael Hollingsworth concurred in a rather abrupt statement: “Stinks,” he wrote, asked about prospects for the new year.

Other operators took the wait-and-see approach of  a quarter of poll respondents. Neil Westerlund, for instance, restated the brass tacks of many an owner-operator business. “I will do I can to maximize my hauling and revenue,” he wrote. “No cheap freight and [more] loaded miles,” simply. 

Notes of optimism were few, though a nearly equivalent share saw better prospects as saw conditions worsening. Jeremy Lile planned on “running all the freight I can,” he wrote.

With so many “crying about the e-logs” and more, Lile added, “I figure that there should be plenty of extra freight to haul.”

Rates will need to come up to make any extra freight worth it, though, noted frequent commenter Tom Puckett. “There’s tons of freight out there, but most of it is cheap — the rates are in the toilet.”

Most recent reports have indeed shown rates falling on average throughout the latter part of this year on the spot market, and contract linehaul rates in reefer and flatbed began to follow them in November, per DAT’s Trendlines reports, though contract van rates held more or less steady.

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All in all, uncertainty remained at fairly high levels, though income averages early in the year showed ATBS’ many clients at least tracking along at similar levels as the record-setting 2014. If you’ve put your numbers together for 2015 as yet — how’d it turn out relative to 2014?

And here’s hoping your year is at least off to a decent start. If you’re running, profitable first week thus far?