Federal safety data indicates that carrier registrations jumped by 7.5% during the past 14 months, possibly reflecting a move by drivers to go into business for themselves, according to an analysis by QualifiedCarriers, which provides risk management services to shippers.

The number of active for-hire carriers counted in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's CSA database jumped from 155,240 in February 2011 to 166,810 in April 2012, the company says.

Jeff Tucker, CEO of QualifiedCarriers and of Tucker Company Worldwide, a transportation broker, says he believes the new registrants are mainly independents who sought shelter as company drivers during the recession and now are getting back into business for themselves.

This jibes with what reports from Joe Rajkovacz, director of regulatory affairs at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. As HDT reported in its April issue, the association says it's seeing more owner-operators go after their own authority.

"Even during the depths of the recession, our Business Services department was doing a roaring trade with owner-operators wanting to set up their own operation," he says. "On top of the number of motor carriers that are pushing their owner-operators in that direction to protect their CSA SMS scores, we have seen a huge increase in the number of individual filings over the past few years."

These are men and women who are better at trucking and want more out of the business, says Rajkovacz. "They have the business skills, they understand their costs, and they know there's good money to be made outside the traditional lease arrangement."