Survey: Trucking conditions improved in March

Business conditions in trucking were improved in March over February, according to the latest Randall-Reilly MarketPulse survey of trucking conditions. More than half — 53% — of the MarketPulse panel of for-hire trucking executives reported that business conditions had improved while only 8% said conditions were worse. Larger carriers — those with 100 or more trucks — in particular reported improved business conditions. Also, the Carrier Sentiment Index rose to 6.49 in March from 6.07 in February with the greatest improvement coming from larger carriers.

More than 60% of carriers expect business conditions to be better in six months, adjusting for seasonality. Nearly half — 48% — plan to replace aging equipment without changing fleet size over the next six months. About 36% plan to grow their fleets. Driver availability remains the top concern. More than half of larger carriers and 38% of smaller carriers listed driver availability as their top worry.

February’s survey included additional questions related to hours-of-service and driver availability. Carriers see reduced driver productivity and a need for adjustments in customers’ schedules and procedures as likely outcomes for the upcoming changes to the hours rules. A majority of carriers say that fewer than 30% of driver applicants meet qualification standards. About 60% target military personnel in their recruiting. Driver referrals and online advertising are the most popular tools for recruiting drivers. Nearly half — 46% — of larger carriers hire drivers without professional experience; only 12% of smaller carriers do.

Selected quotes
“We are in a bubble. Give it a couple of months, and it will pop.”

“We continue to adapt to whatever the market throws at us. It is very difficult to plan with any confidence under the present economic climate.”

“The pool of available drivers is the worst I’ve seen in over 25 years.”

The Randall-Reilly MarketPulse survey canvasses a standing panel of senior for-hire trucking executives each month, allowing for a reliable directional assessment of industry conditions despite a relatively small sample of a little more than 100 respondents. A copy of the full March 2013 MarketPulse report, which included 104 senior executives of for-hire trucking companies, is available at no additional cost to subscribers of Randall-Reilly’s TruckGauge by clicking here or for $95 at