2014 was a good year to be in trucking. Virtually every indicator, from driver retention, to profit, to truck sales, increased. The American economy has been growing, increasing market demand and challenging carriers to keep up with the demand for freight.
Commercial Carrier Journal released their Top 250 list for 2014, revealing the top trends and rankings in the trucking industry. With data collected from for-hire trucking companies, taking into account revenues posted by the trucking company, its fleet size, and employment base.
The list announced self-reported revenue was up for the second year in a row, with general freight experiencing the most growth, at 14 percent. Dedicated contract carriage grew at 10.9 percent and the refrigerated segment grew at 10.2 percent.
Many carriers from the CCJ Top 250 list have used the extra funds to invest in new equipment, taking on well over 44,000 new power units in 2014. In comparison, in the previous year, ranked companies barely expanded capacity at all. Most of the growth purchases were Class 8 trucks, giving truck manufacturers their best year since before the recession: 16.7 percent of the purchases were in the flatbed/specialized/heavy haul segment and 10.4 percent were in general freight. The numbers for household goods and the intermodal segments decreased.
Many carriers also invested in new people as hiring and retention surged. The big jump in driver numbers was actually in 2013, with a 2.9 percent increase, but the number of independent contractor drivers and company equipment drivers combined went up in 2014, by 1.2 percent, totaling 723,933 among the 250 top-ranked carriers.
Finally, larger carriers used their new funds to buy each other in a flurry of acquisitions. In some cases, companies bought companies that had themselves just bought other companies. Other carriers succeeded in several acquisitions in the same year, such as Forward Air Corp. who purchased Central States Trucking Co., Central States Logistics, and Towne Air Freight. These acquisitions not only allow a company to diversify its business or rapidly increase its size, but the practice is also an effective way to eliminate the competition.
While changes in fuel prices are difficult to predict, there is no reason to believe they are about to rise in the next few months. Consumer demand should remain strong for the immediate future, keeping shipping prices relatively high.
With such business-friendly circumstances, we can expect 2015 to finish out as a positive year in trucking as well.