Truckload carriers in the U.S. are continuing to use caution in buying new equipment, according to Transport Capital Partners' recent Business Expectations Survey.

TCP, a firm specializing in transportation mergers and acquisitions, capital sourcing and advisory services, uses the quarterly survey to collect the insights and opinions of executives nationwide in order to report on the current state of the truckload industry and future expectations.

"TCP's survey shows about half of carriers adding capacity, primarily when the current fleet is fully utilized and rates increase sufficiently," said Richard Mikes, a managing partner for TCP. "But one in eight (primarily smaller carriers) are already starting to add capacity now with the impending supply demand equilibrium being positive."

The survey found that 56 percent of respondents expect to grow by adding new capacity from company-owned equipment rather than independent contractors. Both Batts and Mikes said it was surprising that 29 percent of carriers planning to add capacity indicate they would do so with independent contractors, given that their numbers have been dropping for some time because of higher fuel prices, tight credit markets and the increasing price of new 2010-compliant tractors.

"The survey shows that larger carriers will wait until their current fleet is fully utilized and rates increase sufficiently," said Lana Batts, a managing partner for TCP. "Increased rates will definitely be needed before most carriers invest in newer, more costly equipment."

"About half of carriers are considering extending their trade cycles 12 months or more," Mikes said. "This reflects the view of many carriers that truck quality has been rising and shorter hauls have made this option more attractive as new truck prices continue to rise."