Annual fleet ‘checkup’ details trucking equipment trends, operational concerns

Updated Oct 31, 2014
2014 Annual Study

Graphics: CK Commercial Vehicle Research

The overview shouldn’t surprise anyone in the trucking: Fleets will be less aggressive in purchasing new equipment next year as the driver shortage continues to hamper capacity growth, according to the 2014 Annual Fleet Study by CK Commercial Vehicle Research.

The key point from this year’s survey is the driver shortage – impacting everything,” says CKCVR’s Chris Kemmer.

But the real value of the analysis is in the details: Sixty-six representatives from small, medium and large for-hire, private and government fleets operating more than 40,000 Class 8 vehicles responded to this year’s 20-question survey.

Topics include planned 2015 truck and trailer purchases for replacement and added capacity, brand choices, driver shortage impact, equipment specifications, new technologies, maintenance and replacement parts, information sources and challenges for 2015.

In other words, consider it an annual checkup on the health and wellness of fleet operations, with the survey data suitably charted and graphed, supplemented by dozens and dozens of quotes and comments from respondents.

Along with the nuts and bolts on equipment purchase plans, the survey sheds some light on the thinking of fleet decision makers by tracking changes in equipment orders over the past three years. (For instance, the percentage of fleets spec’ing trailers with tire pressure monitoring systems nearly doubled this year, after holding steady in the previous two surveys.)

More broadly, fleets added technology targeting safety, driver recruitment and fuel economy.

The survey reflects a growing adoption of 13-liter engines, with a majority of fleets ordering the lighter, more fuel-efficient engines. And nearly half of the fleets surveyed are ordering trucks with automated manual transmissions. The percentage of fleets that plan to order adaptive cruise control and “added driver comforts” also both jumped.

Additionally, the study notes that the trailer-to-tractor ratio has increased significantly from last year’s report, and attributes the spike “certainly” to be an effect of the driver shortage. (Yet planned trailer orders for next year fell.)

And while the driver shortage is the general theme, the new hours-of-service rule topped the fleet’s list of regulatory concerns, with the coming electronic log mandate in third.

Somewhat surprising to me, EPA’s push for fuel economy standards came in as No. 2, with respondents citing increased equipment and maintenance costs, along with the government’s inability to understand the industry and the range of applications for which trucks must be spec’ed.

More information about CKCVR’s 2014 Annual Fleet Study and details on how to order the 26-page report are available on the website.