The number of active for-hire motor carriers in the U.S. rose 7.5 percent from February 2011 through this month, an increase of more than 11,500 trucking companies.
That increase points to a broad resurgence in trucking and freight shipping also evident in the 11.6 percent increase in revenue among the 50 largest motor carriers in 2011.
However, the number of active motor carriers with satisfactory safety ratings declined by 2.4 percent, according to an analysis of Department of Transportation carrier data.
The number of carriers with a conditional safety rating jumped "by an unprecedented amount," 22.8 percent or 1,156 carriers, to 6,226 companies in total, the analysis found.
The number of active carriers rated "unsatisfactory" plummeted 20.5 percent to 62 companies, representing only a fraction of the total active carrier base.
But the vast majority of active motor carriers, 78 percent, have no safety rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at all, the analysis discovered.
The number of active trucking companies without a safety rating increased by 9.4 percent to 129,857, according to QualifiedCarriers.com, which released the data.
The risk management company's April analysis shows the number of truckers with DOT and MC numbers and active authority and insurance is much lower than widely thought.
There are more than 500,000 motor carriers of all types registered with the DOT, including private carriers and more than 225,000 for-hire trucking companies.
But thousands of those companies are not active, and some may no longer be in business, said Jeff Tucker, CEO and founder of QualifiedCarriers, Cherry Hill, N.J.
"The only carriers we're concerned with are the ones who are available to haul freight," said Tucker, who is also CEO of logistics provider Tucker Company Worldwide.
The analysis shows the FMCSA is "remarkably slow" in expanding its CSA program to cover carriers, with 67 percent of active truckers still without BASIC scores.
"Of the 55,735 for-hire carriers with a BASIC, 57 percent have at least one BASIC Alert, with 13 percent having an alert in the Unsafe Driving BASIC," QualifiedCarriers said.
An even larger number, 34 percent, had an alert in the Fatigued Driving BASIC, which relates to truck driver hours-of-service compliance, the company said.
However, those numbers are down by 2.2 percent for Unsafe Driving and 3.2 percent for Fatigued Driving compared with February 2011, QualifiedCarriers said.