The survey of 1,357 truck and bus fleets also indicated strong demand for truck transportation highlighted by an unusually small decline in utilization from fourth to first quarter.
In the 7 years prior to 2000, power unit utilization has declined an average 5.4 percentage points from fourth to first quarter. The smallest decline was 4.2 points in 1994. This year, the decline was only six-tenths of a point.
Class 8 truck and tractor utilization for first quarter was 84.1%, up 2.5 points from first quarter last year. Highest gains came from lease/rental and "other" (mainly utilities and government agencies) fleets although for-hire carriers and owner-operators reported higher utilization than a year ago. Private fleets, farm fleets, and construction, mining and refuse companies reported small declines in utilization.
Trailer utilization was 84.4%, up 5.6 points from last year. All but construction/mining/ refuse reported an increase. Lease/rental utilization was up 8.7 points which is particularly significant since about 40% of trailers operated in the U.S. are in lease/rental fleets, researchers said.
Class 7 utilization was 83.3%, up 1.4 points from last year. Class 6 utilization was 75.5%, down 2 points.
MacKay noted that strong economic growth is generating a lot of freight and most of that freight is moving by truck. The railroads, trucking's main competition, are still struggling to restore service after merger disruptions. While trucking continues to grow, demand for rail services is essentially flat.
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