Major carriers pull trucks off the road in response to freight/rates, but most intend to maintain size, surveys show

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Updated Nov 11, 2016
Werner in its third quarter earnings report said it removed 90 trucks from service in the quarter, bringing its year-over-year reductions to 240. “We again reduced our average trucks in service…from second quarter 2016 to third quarter 2016 in response to the freight market conditions. We are not growing our truck fleet until we see meaningful improvement in the freight and rate markets,” Werner’s earnings report reads. (Photo by Jim Allen, 356 Trucking)Werner in its third quarter earnings report said it removed 90 trucks from service in the quarter, bringing its year-over-year reductions to 240. “We again reduced our average trucks in service…from second quarter 2016 to third quarter 2016 in response to the freight market conditions. We are not growing our truck fleet until we see meaningful improvement in the freight and rate markets,” Werner’s earnings report reads. (Photo by Jim Allen, 356 Trucking)

Some of the country’s largest carriers — Swift, Werner and Covenant — announced in their October-released third quarter earnings reports that they have pulled hundreds of trucks off the road this year, citing bad rates and slow freight seen throughout 2016 as reasons why.

However, the practice doesn’t seem to be widespread, according to CCJ’s monthly MarketPulse survey and other data.

Per CCJ MarketPulse responses in October, only 2.4 percent of the 80 fleets surveyed indicated they planned to cut their fleet’s number of power units in the next six months. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they intend to maintain their fleet’s size in the next half-year. The remainder, 28.8 percent, said they planned to increase the number of power units.

Likewise, the quarterly Fleet Sentiment Survey produced by CK Commercial Vehicle Research concludes fleets “are close to being right-sized at the moment,” based on the number of trucks parked, why they’re parked and power unit utilization.

Reported vehicle utilization in the September-released report did rise, potentially a sign that carriers have removed capacity, the survey notes.

The survey includes responses from 54 fleets. Many of them indicated they would expand their fleet size if they could hire more drivers, but ultimately, the report notes, “most fleets continue to have just enough capacity for the freight/work that is available to them.”