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Truck Use Falls, Trailer Use Up In Fourth Quarter

January 20, 2000

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Seasonal slowdowns and weakness in some sectors drove overall Class 6-8 vehicle utilization down some in fourth quarter 1999, but trailer utilization rose sharply, according to the latest survey by MacKay & Co.
On average, fleets operated their Class 6-8 vehicles at 84.1% of capacity, about 1.8 percentage points lower than fourth quarter last year.
Researchers at the Lombard, IL, based consulting firm say this was the lowest fourth quarter utilization rate since 1993. Class 8 utilization was 84.5% for the quarter versus 86.6% a year ago. Class 7 utilization was up slightly, from 84.7% to 85%. Class 6 fell from 80.4% to 76.3%.
Fleets that move industrial and consumer goods reported solid increases. For-hire carrier Class 8 utilization was up 2.3 percentage points, although a 1.7 point decline in owner-operator utilization indicates that carriers may be cutting back on their use of independent contractors. Private fleets utilization was up 4.1 points. Lease/rental utilization was 94.5%, up 6.2 points from a year ago and the highest rate recorded in the 15 years MacKay has been doing the survey.
The overall Class 8 utilization decline is attributed to three market segments:
construction/mining/refuse (down 10.8%), agriculture (down 3%), and “other” (down 23%). Researchers say this is partly due to a weak farm economy and seasonal declines in construction and some utility segments.
“In general, the fundamentals of demand continue strong,” the company said.
The slight decline in Class 6 and 7 utilization was also attributed to declines in agriculture and “other” vocations plus a 5.5 point drop in owner-operator utilization. Private fleets reported a 7.8 point increase, lease rental was up 1.7 points, for-hire carriers up 0.2 points, and school bus utilization up 1.5 points.
Fourth quarter trailer utilization was 88.6%, 8.2 points above the same period in 1998. Only the agriculture segment reported a drop. Owner-operators utilization was up 4.5 points, for-hire carriers up 1.3 points, private carriers up 6.8 points. Lease/rental utilization rose 13.3 points, to 91.5% -- the highest fourth quarter since 1994.
MacKay said Y2K hoarding may have played a small role in the increase, but a strong increase in trailer utilization through the second half of 1999 implies that fleets were moving significantly more freight than earlier in the year, largely because of increased industrial production.
For more information on the MacKay & Co. quarterly utilization survey contact Don Kuntz, director of database services, (630) 916-6110.

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