ATA’s American Trucking Trends report points to revenue gains despite industry challenges

Once again, the numbers in the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) annual American Trucking Trends publication continue to show strength, even at a time like the present, when strength could in some ways be viewed in short supply, given the myriad challenges the sector finds itself up against.

But challenges aside, the 2016 version of American Trucking Trends points to the sector remaining on pretty solid footing, with total trucking industry revenue topping $700 million for the second straight year in 2015 at $726.4 billion, or 3.6 percent or so higher than 2014’s $700.4 billion.

New ATA President and CEO Chris Spear described American Trucking Trends as a publication that provides indispensable information to trucking companies, industry suppliers, logistics providers, analysts, public policy decision makers, investors and many others. Information that is crucial to making sound decisions about the future.

And ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello opined about the revenue takeaways of the publication.

“According to our data, trucking revenues topped $700 billion for a second straight year, setting an all-time record of $726.4 billion in 2015, while trucks moved more than 10 billion tons of freight,” said Costello. “While the first half of 2016 has been challenging for the industry, trucking is coming off two very strong years and we are optimistic about the future.”

Some of the key data points highlighted in this year’s report include:

-trucking collected $726.4 billion in gross freight revenues, 81.5% of the nation’s freight bill in 2015;

-trucks carried 10.49 tons of freight in 2015, accounting for 70.1% of domestic freight tonnage; and 

-in 2015, there were 3.63 million Class 8 trucks in operation.

Other data included in the report takes a look at things like: amount of taxes the industry paid; the number of miles combination trucks traveled and the amount of fuel they consumed; key employment data, including the number of persons working in trucking related jobs throughout all industries, number of drivers and how many women are truck drivers; and the number of trucking companies by company size.

While much of the data featured in American Trucking Trends can be viewed as encouraging, the industry continues to deal with multiple issues, some of which seem to never truly go away.

These things include the driver shortage, a problem which appears to be front and center more often than not and still dealing with more questions and answers, when it comes to what needs to be done to fill seats and keep drivers in them. Some carriers are stepping up with better pay and amenities and training, which is a step in the right direction.

Other factors include still fairly loose capacity, inconsistent demand, and rate pressures, among others.

And as Contributing Editor John D. Schulz observes in our August Quarterly Trucking Transportation Market Update, excessive inventory and a less-than-robust over all economy are causing excess capacity, which is resulting in some carriers straining to keep their trucks somewhat full by aggressively cutting rates.

Other things impacting the industry include the ongoing regulatory crunch and a lack of the typical uptick seen in Q2 and Q3, which has led to some shippers looking for rate relief from carriers.

Given the current state of the freight transportation market, it stands to reason we are living in interesting times and really need to take the good with the bad. That said, the 2016 edition of American Trucking Trends shows that the industry continues to roll with the changes and is still producing impressive top-line revenue growth, despite the many mixed signals that are sent by both the freight economy and macroeconomic trends, too.