March was a big month for Class 8 big trucks, the big rigs. Sales increased 17.9 percent from February and 25.6 percent over March 2013.
Volvo, which manufactures truck engines at a 1.5-million-square-foot facility in Hagerstown, Md., and Mack scored the largest increases. Volvo sales jumped 68.9 percent over February (2,500 vs. 1,480) and Mack sales jumped 50.1 percent (1,345 vs. 896).
The news is welcomed by the big truck industry, which was hit hard by the recession. In light of the good news, I wanted to share the six things you might not know about owner-operator truckers, courtesy of Overdrive Magazine.
1. The owner-operator population grew for the third year in a row in 2013. It reached 171,400 in 2013, up from 149,900 in 2010, at the tail end of the recession.
2. Leased owner-operator businesses are growing faster than those of independent businesses. Overdrive says less risk is associated with leasing, a big factor coming out of the recession.
3. For the third year in a row, the number of trucks controlled by owner-operators grew in 2013, from 224,300 in 2010 to 240,800. However, that growth isn’t as fast as the growth of owner-operators, who typically enter the industry with one truck.
4. The average fleet size is decreasing. The last peak was 1.56 trucks per owner, in 2008, as the recession took hold. It’s dropped steadily to 1.40 in 2013. This has held true for independents, now at 1.66, and leased operators, at 1.26.
5. The recession was devastating to the trucker. Even though the owner-operator truck population has grown for three straight years, it’s still 14 percent (38,200 trucks) below the peak in 2006.
6. The outlook for owner-operators is good. “Economic growth is stimulating demand for for-hire transportation services, and for-hire industry capacity utilization is at a relatively high rate, so carriers are increasing programs and compensation to attract and retain owner-operators,” said Chris Brady of Commercial Motor Vehicle Consulting, who produced the study for Overdrive.
So while the winter was rough, and many trucking companies reported losses for the quarter, there are signs that owner-operators are on solid footing. The industry faces constant threats from rising fuel costs, de-unionization, taxes and environmental regulations.
It’s nice to read good news about our nation’s truckers.