Capacity at a group of six large truckload carriers tracked by The Journal of Commerce fell a cumulative 1.5 percent from the second quarter and 1.5 percent from a year ago, with two carriers increasing capacity slightly year-over-year.
The tractor count at the more than $10 billion carrier group is 6.8 percent lower than it was at the end of 2008 and 14.7 percent lower than at the end of 2006. Since 2009, however, the combined tractor count has only declined slightly.
At the end of 2006, the group had 47,540 tractors. It culled 1,212 tractors in 2007, and 2,822 in 2008, as the U.S. economy slid into a global recession. The carriers retired another 2,787 trucks in 2009, as the recession peaked.
Since 2010, the group’s capacity has stayed in a 600-tractor range, peaking in the second quarter before dropping back in the last financial reporting period, reflecting a shift in sequential quarterly freight demand noted by many truckload carriers.
That trend indicates truckload supply and demand are fairly well balanced at this point, with carriers holding capacity in check while demanding higher rates they claim are necessary to rebuild profitability and provide a return on investment.
The carriers that added capacity in the third quarter did so by less than 1 percent from the second quarter, indicating a very cautious approach toward expansion at a period when many truckload carriers reported increased demand from shippers.
The Journal of Commerce removed one carrier from its survey group because it has yet to make third quarter information available. Another carrier was added to the group, significantly increasing the size of the combined group’s tractor fleet.