Trucking revenues rise 6.3 percent in 2006

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Internal Revenue Service has issued Revenue Procedure 2007-63 to provide optional rules for deeming substantiated the amount of certain business expenses of traveling away from home reimbursed to an employee or deductible by an employee or self-employed individual. The procedure includes a section specific to the transportation industry. In recent years, the agency has scrutinized use of per diems in trucking. (See Finances, CCJ, December 2006.) For Rev. Proc. 2007-63, go to www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-07-63.pdf.

IRS announced that the standard mileage rates for use of automobiles and light trucks will be 50.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, effective Jan. 1. Vehicles used for hire and certain depreciated and expensed are among the exclusions. Go to www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-07-70.pdf.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed a civil emergency declaration to expedite weekly fuel tax reimbursements for independent logging truck operators and other off-road diesel users struggling with high fuel prices. Those operators currently must pay the tax at the pump and seek a reimbursement from the state.

Total transportation and logistics mergers and acquisitions volume for 2007 is on pace to exceed 2006 levels despite a slower pace in the third quarter attributed to stock market volatility and a decline in debt market liquidity, according to Intersections, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ quarterly report on M&A activity in the industry. Go to www.pwc.com/transport.

Companies in the business of truck transportation racked up $220 billion in revenues in 2006 – 6.3 percent more than in 2005, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s the third-best revenue growth this decade, but it trails double-digit growth posted in 2005 and 2004. Trucking revenues in 2005 were 11.1 percent higher than in 2004, while 2004 revenues were 10.4 percent higher than in 2003. One factor in the slower 2006 growth is non-motor carrier revenue for trucking companies, which grew 14.7 percent in 2005 over 2004 but only 4.7 percent in 2006 over 2005.

The report, 2006 Service Annual Survey: Truck Transportation, Couriers and Messengers, and Warehousing and Storage, provides estimates – such as revenue, size of shipments, revenue by commodity shipped, origin and destination of shipment, and inventories of revenue-generating equipment – for firms with paid employees. The report excludes private motor carriers.

According to the Census Bureau, revenues for the broader trucking and warehousing industry exceeded $312 billion – up 6.7 percent over 2005. In addition to truck transportation, the courier/messenger industry – which includes services like UPS and FedEx overnight letter/parcel delivery – grew 7.1 percent to $71.8 billion. And warehousing and storage grew 10.2 percent to $21.1 billion.

Within the trucking industry, the top performer in the report was local general-freight trucking, which was up about 12.3 percent over 2005. Long-distance trucking revenues grew 4.3 percent, including increases for general freight truckload and LTL revenues of 5.1 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

Expenses for the trucking industry grew 7.2 in 2006 to $201.4 billion for an industrywide operating profit of $18.1 billion. Operating profits were down 2.7 percent from 2005. With the exception of the fairly small item of expensed equipment, energy costs were the fastest rising expense for carriers in 2006. Transportation fuel expenses rose 16.6 percent.

Spending on the much-smaller budget item of electricity and other non-motor fuels grew even faster at 25.6 percent. Overall personnel costs rose 4.3 percent, but expenses for fringe benefits grew at 6.6 percent – twice the increase in payroll costs.

The numbers seem to reflect on one important development during 2006 that continues to plague the trucking industry today – construction of lots of homes that did not sell quickly. Specialized freight – including flatbed as well as tanker and refrigerated, among others – was down in 2006, but it remained strong relative to general freight. Local specialized freight trucking rose 10.9 percent, and long-distance revenues were up 8.8 percent. But revenues for household and office goods moving rose a mere 0.4 percent, down from 8.7 percent growth the year before.

Other highlights from the report:

* U.S. commercial trucks traveled 91 billion miles in 2006, a number equal to nearly 200,000 round trips to the moon;

* Trucking within U.S. borders accounted for 96 percent, or $196 billion, of motor carrier revenue in 2006; and

* About 84 percent of trucks and trailers were owned and/or leased with drivers, while 16 percent were leased without drivers.

For more information, including a copy of the report in PDF and Excel, go to www.census.gov/econ/www/servmenu.html.
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