Fleet Survey Shows Business is Great, Drivers are Scarce

February 2, 2018

By Deborah Lockridge

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Business is good, so fleets are planning to buy equipment – but many would buy more if they had the truck drivers to put in them. Courtesy CKCVR
Business is good, so fleets are planning to buy equipment – but many would buy more if they had the truck drivers to put in them. Courtesy CKCVR

How’s business? Better than ever, according to CK Commercial Vehicle Research’s first-quarter Fleet Sentiment Report survey of trucking fleets.

Fleets were asked, “Considering all the factors that impact your company, on a scale of 1-5, in your opinion, what is the overall outlook for your fleet in the next three months?” The average keeps rising to new heights – in Q1 2018, a new record of 4.37.

Freight demand is strong at most companies in the survey.

Planned equipment purchases are keeping pace, with the CKCVR FSR Buying Index only showing a drop because it’s compared to exceptional numbers in last year’s fourth quarter and because fewer fleets were planning to place large trailer orders.

Nearly 60% (59.5%) of the Q1 respondents indicated they planned to place power unit orders during the first quarter, heavily weighted toward larger fleets.

“While I don’t expect Q1 orders to be higher than Q4, the number of fleets that plan to place orders shows continued strength in truck demand,” noted survey author Chris Kemmer of CK Commercial Vehicle Research in the report.

Some of the things fleets are planning to add to these new orders they didn’t spec previously include air disc brakes, automated transmissions, battery-powered auxiliary power units, and collision mitigation systems.

The driver shortage is still affecting two-thirds of respondents, with a number commenting that if they could find the qualified drivers, there’s plenty of business for them to add trucks to put them in.

Kemmer noted that the fleets that are planning to buy power units to add capacity are mostly those involved in building and construction, “not large for-hire fleets who are most heavily beset by the continuing driver shortage.”

However, she said, “Because of a continued driver shortage in an environment of strong freight, many fleets are using added trailer purchases to increase their capacity (doing more drop and hook, etc.)”

Interest in electric commercial trucks is spotty, but all respondents understand roadblocks and possible benefits. Top roadblocks mentioned include charging station infrastructure, range on a single charge, initial cost, and weight issues. Benefits expected include low or no fuel costs, environmental benefits, and possibly maintenance cost savings.

E-commerce and “last-mile” delivery demands are only expected to affect specific segments. Few expressed those as a reason to make wholesale changes any time soon, instead taking more of a mentality of being open to adapting to changes as they see them.

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