2015 Outlook: Indicators strong; driver availability remain concern

By most accounts, 2014 was a great year for the trucking industry. The American Trucking Associations’ Trucking Tonnage Index reached an all-time high in August and nearly beat that number again in October. The economy’s slow-but-steady recovery has led to more freight demand than the industry can handle, and the tight capacity environment has allowed many carriers to raise freight rates as a result. And the Institute for Supply Management’s New Orders Index that reflects manufacturing orders is experiencing an 18-month run of growth dating back to June 2013 and currently is trending at levels not seen in more than a decade.

But 2014 wasn’t without its own challenges. The hours-of-service rules that took effect in July 2013 crimped fleet productivity anywhere from 3 to 5 percent. Infrastructure issues and increased congestion on America’s highways also took bites out of an otherwise great year. A recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute said trucking companies lost 141 million hours of productivity in 2013 as a result of congestion on the nation’s Interstate system, amounting to about $9.2 billion in lost revenue and the equivalent of 51,000 truck drivers being idle for one year.

While infrastructure and congestion issues were still a challenge last year and will remain so in 2015, the rollback of the HOS provisions as part of the latest spending bill that halts two requirements – that a 34-hour restart must contain two consecutive 1-5 a.m. periods and the restart must be limited to once per week – should allow carriers to recoup some of the resulting productivity losses experienced in the last year and a half. But the driver shortage and the impact of new and forthcoming regulations both threaten to erode fleet profitability.

[gtbutton link=”http://www.ccjdigital.com/ccjs-2015-economic-outlook-indicators-look-strong-but-driver-availability-regulatory-drag-lead-fleets-2015-concerns/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_content=03-06-2015&utm_campaign=CCJ&ust_id=91d3f0dbb2&”]See Commercial Carrier Journal’s Complete 2015 Economic Outlook[/gtbutton]