It should not come as a surprise at this point, but when the numbers come out it really can be a bit jaw-dropping.
The numbers I am referring to are the ones attached to trucking industry revenue that were included in this year’s edition of the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) annual publication “American Trucking Trends.”
According to the ATA, total 2014 trucking industry revenue was $700.4 billion, which alone is a staggering number, but making it all the more impressive is that it represents the first time annual industry revenue has topped $700 billion.
“Last year, we saw freight volumes grow significantly,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Increases in freight, combined with continued tight capacity helped drive revenues and coupled with lower fuel prices, we saw motor carriers go on a buying spree for new trucks as they replaced older equipment.”
Some of the key data points highlighted in the report include:
-in 2013, trucks moved 9.96 billion tons, representing 68.8 percent of al domestic freight, down from 69.1 percent in 2013 and up from 68.5 percent in 2012;
-the industry also collected 80.3 percent of all freight transportation spending, down from 81.2 percent in 2013 80.7 percent in 2012;
-the industry employed more than 7 million people, including 3.4 million drivers;
-combination trucks registered a total of 168.4 billion miles or an average of 69,000 per truck;
-since deregulation in 1980, the number of registered motor carriers has increased by 68 times to more than 1.3 million carriers; and
-commercial trucks paid $16.5 million in federal highway user fees
While these numbers are very impressive, it is worth noting that the industry remains up against some significant hurdles.
For one, the driver shortage remains alive and well. And for another, while capacity has loosened up some, especially when compared to a year ago. That tightness, which resulted in high spot market rates, likely helped contribute to such strong revenue gains.
Not to be forgotten in the “challenges” department is the never-ending theme of industry regulations, namely CSA, motor carrier Hours-of-Service, as well as those on the horizon, specifically driver coercion and the ongoing discussion regarding truck size and weight.
Last month, I was at the NASSTRAC conference in Orlando, where I was able to talk with a good amount of shippers and carriers to see how they view the current state of affairs within the industry.
By and large the feedback was mostly positive, but opinions varied on things like the state of the economy and where things are headed, as well as ways to address the driver shortage, fuel prices, and the regulatory landscape, too. These are “standard” challenges, which never truly seem to abate to say the least.