Fleets were operating trucks at 86.3% of capacity, which researchers said is about even with second quarter 1999 utilization -- the highest ever recorded.
Class 7 truck and bus utilization was the only category that showed a decline from the previous year, slipping from 85% to 84%. Class 6 utilization edged from 79.8% to 80.5%; Class 8 utilization inched up 0.2 percentage points to 87.3%. Trailer utilization showed the biggest gain, up 2.6 points to 84.4%.
Private fleets, lease/rental companies and construction/mining/refuse operations reported higher Class 8 utilization than a year ago. For-hire carriers reported a modest 0.5 point decline which, researchers noted, could be the first sign of a softer for-hire freight market. Owner-operators in the survey reported a 4.9 point drop, which may reflect the impact of higher fuel prices coupled with slowing demand for for-hire trucking services. For-hire carriers typically “lose” owner-operators before they idle trucks, MacKay noted.
Class 8 utilization in “other” fleets, mainly government and utilities, dropped 24.2 points. Utilization among farmers and related businesses was down 13.8 points, which MacKay attributed to depressed commodity prices that are keeping large quantities of grain and soybeans in storage.
For-hire trailer fleet utilization rose 0.9 point, reaching the highest level recorded since MacKay began tracking trailer utilization in 1990. Lease/rental utilization was up 8.9 points, private fleet utilization up 5.1 points. Owner-operator trailer utilization was down 12.8 points and agricultural trailer utilization dropped 16.5 points.
The typical spring rebound was weaker than usual. MacKay said Class 8 utilization from first quarter to second quarter has averaged 5.1 points over the last five years. This year the increase was only 3.2 points, but researchers said this doesn’t necessarily reflect a weaker market since first quarter 2000 was exceptionally strong. First to second quarter trailer utilization, which has averaged 2.2 points, showed no quarter-to-quarter change this time.
Year-over-year utilization of Class 6 and 7 trucks increased among for-hire and lease/rental fleets but fell slightly for all other vocations. For-hire carriers, private fleets, farmers and “other” fleets reported larger than average increases from first to second quarter.
MacKay & Co., based in Lombard, Ill., is a market research company specializing in the medium and heavy truck and trailer aftermarket. Close to 600 fleets responded to this quarterly utilization survey, representing over 100,000 Class 6 and 7 trucks, 7,300 school buses, 150,000Class 8 trucks and tractors, and 262,000 trailers. For more information contact Don Kuntz, director of database services, (630) 916-6110.