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May 11, 2016 9:30 AM, EDT

Study Finds as Truckload Profitability Improves, Utilization Declines

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A new study produced by technology provider TMW Systems has found that most truckload fleets last year were able to improve profitability because of rate increases that outweighed declining utilization.

The firm’s Transportation & Logistics Study, based on data collected in 2015 from more than 150 transport businesses with more than $31 billion in revenue, was based on financial, operational and maintenance criteria. On an industrywide basis, the study said results were mixed because of the drop in key utilization metrics.

“There’s room both for enthusiasm about respondents’ improved financial performance and concern regarding the challenges that continue to negatively impact operational efficiency,” TMW President David Wangler said.

The study determined that driver miles per week rose and turnover declined but utilization was affected by giving drivers more home time and by a rise in the percentage of unseated trucks. More dedicated services are being offered and asset-based fleets are tending to diversify more into brokerage than dedicated offerings. Fleets also are doing more aggressive fuel management, said the survey, which found little change in maintenance costs.

More than half of irregular route fleets reported operating ratios of 94 or below, compared with 39% in the 2014 survey. Operating ratios showed little change among dedicated operators.

More than two-thirds of truckload fleets planned expansion into brokerage or third-party logistics, the latest survey found, compared with 40% in 2014.

Driver wages rose about 5% from year-to-year for irregular route operators but barely increased for drivers at dedicated operations.