Plenty of Freight, but Fleets Worry About Driver Shortage, High Fuel Costs

May 06, 2012

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Although very few fleets are expecting a shortage of freight to haul, lack of drivers, higher fuel and insurance costs appear to be dampening carriers' enthusiasm to buy new power units in the near future, according to CK Commercial Vehicle Research's Q2 2012 Fleet Sentiment Report.
Finding quality drivers is one factor causing fleets to hold off ordering new trucks.
Finding quality drivers is one factor causing fleets to hold off ordering new trucks.

The quarterly CK Buying Index continues to show improvement again in the second quarter, but the increase comes primarily from an increase for trailers - and only for the percent of fleets planning to place trailer orders.

Planned power unit orders (for the next 3 months) are down from last quarter and down from the same quarter last year, both in the percent of fleets planning pur- chases and the overall size of the planned orders.

When asked about the overall outlook for your fleet for the next three months, researchers received the highest average rating it's seen since it started asking the question. However, increasing costs for drivers, fuel and other expenses are still challenges.

The general feeling is that there is no need to place orders far in advance because open build slots are available -- no reason to commit until you are sure.

While the planned numbers were down, delivery has been pulled up. Last quarter half the orders were for delivery in the 4-6 months time frame; now almost 7 in 10 are expected in the next 90 days.

More fleets in the survey (40% of those placing orders) are actually adding some capacity with their orders now, and the average percentage of planned orders designated for capacity increases is up as well.

The availability of drivers, however, may be holding some back. More and more fleets in the survey report they are seeing an impact to their operation of a driver shortage, with an increasing number needing drivers right now to fill current seats.

One fleet said it may downsize due to the lack of drivers. A few are changing how they do business, such as aligning freight with driver demands, doing more local and regional business and handling more driver-friendly freight.

Meanwhile, about half of the respondents report that EPA-2010 engines are doing better than expected, with 28% saying fair and 9% not as good. For 9% of the respondents, their experience has been excellent; at the other end of the scale, 5% say very poor.

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