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What’s Up with Capacity? A 2015 Midyear Update

TheRoad_MidYearLast year at this time, I talked about the delicate balance of capacity, and how issues like the driver shortage and ongoing regulations were tipping the scales to create a fairly tight capacity supply. The driver shortage is still with us, and the continued regulatory environment hasn’t changed much, but the apparent capacity supply has tipped back into a much more balanced environment. What’s behind it? Truck tonnage growth is slowing, and last week, DAT Trendline reported a 22% decrease in the spot market YoY. So did the fallout from the weather disruptions in Q1 of 2014 cause an ongoing shortage throughout 2014 that has now softened in 2015, or is there more to it? A few items I haven’t talked about much in the past may now be impacting the market.

 

  • Hours of Service (HOS) Restart. Congress rolled back this provision of HOS on December 16, 2014, and it will remain suspended until at least September 2015. Many industry watchers say that single action has resulted in a productivity gain of between 2% and 3%; in some informal surveys, some carriers reported 6% or more. The rollback could become permanent in September.
  • Inventory to Sales ratios are at their highest point since the middle of 2009. As immediate needs are lessened, shipping can certainly slow. Declines in spot market prices seem to reflect some of this activity.
  • Carrier Bankruptcies and trucks removed from the market hit an all-time low in Q4 2014. Forty-four fleets representing just 605 trucks were lost from the market. This was a steep decline from the previous quarters that was only matched twice before. Pricing increases, along with the drop in diesel costs, seem to be the main reason for this dropoff. FMCSA also reported high numbers of new motor carrier applicants throughout the year of 2014 and early into 2015.

The new norm appears to be, there is no new norm. Prognosticators are wrong as often as they are right. Today’s trucking market has many different influencing factors with hundreds of tentacles. The economy, regulations, availability of drivers, and diesel prices are only the beginning. And of course, each one of these have many subsets of influencers that go with them. If you want my prediction of what’s going to happen in the second half of the year, I would give a strong, I’m not sure.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer!

- Vice President of Capacity Development- C.H. Robinson

Comments

Robert Piatek

There is still a shortage of drivers with no clear plan as to how to get more young people interested in becoming professional truck drivers. You know we are in trouble when there is talk about qualifying 18 year old drivers to driver 18 wheelers. All of the items you listed above effecting capacity all sound reasonable but a loss in the need of drivers will not offset the amount of drivers retiring and or leaving the profession. The transportation industry needs a plan of action to increase the number of quality truck drivers now, before our country finds itself in a lot of trouble.

7.29.15

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Vickie

Regarding the driver shortage: Has anyone asked their insurance company what their policy is on hiring new drivers with less 2-3 years experience? I have and got shot down with the top insurance company in the industry. They won't hire anyone with less then the 2 to 3 year experience.
Even if we could afford to pay him to be a team driver, that's a long time before he can start producing on his own. What about this? How can I put a person behind the wheel with such tight regulations? How do these young drivers get the time behind the wheel without get hired by some big corporation that self insure? We are a very small company and have a very good candidate that we wanted to hire. No experience, no insurance coverage by Great West. Just saying....we can't be the only company experiencing this issue.

8.3.15

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Bob piatek

Vickie, the majority of trucking companies fall in line with what your company is experiencing. Insurance companies know their business and know who to insure and who not too. The only real solution to hiring new and lesser experienced drivers is to, I hate to say it, get the government involved. There has to be government sanctioned driving schools whose programs are state of the art. The graduates from these schools are government certified and eligible to be hired by trucking companies and these companies would not lose or be penalized by the insurance industry. This is only part of the solution needed to get more quality drivers behind the wheel. The perception of a being a truck driver has to change. It has to be treated as a lucrative profession. The transportation industry as a whole needs to coordinate a media blitz showing that being a professional truck driver is a career worth pursuing. Increased pay and quality time at home need to be showcased. The public has to understand that by being a truck driver you can buy a home, raise a family and be part of that family. Today’s longer routes may have to be relayed so the drivers can be home every day or every other day. The trucking industry is very complex with many factors to consider but one trucking company cannot cure the driver shortage problem. It will take the whole transportation network working together along with the government to bring about a positive change.

8.6.15

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