Less sometimes is more, as QualifiedCarriers found when it delved into the Department of Transportation data on motor carriers. The firm found fewer active for-hire carriers than might be expected, but more of them than a year ago.
Although there are more than 500,000 motor carriers of all types registered with the DOT, about half of them for-hire truckers, there were only 166,810 active, for-hire carriers available to haul freight in April, Qualified Carriers said.
“We have a very specific definition of what an active, for-hire carrier is,” said Jeff Tucker, CEO of QualifiedCarriers and freight broker Tucker Co. Worldwide. “The only ones we care about are those who we may hire today to move freight.”
Those carriers had to hold a DOT registration number, an MC or motor carrier number indicating they have for-hire authority and active operating authority and insurance. “If you were to drop any of those, the number escalates quickly.”
Even more surprising in an era of tight trucking capacity, the number of active for-hire carriers increased 7.5 percent over the 14 months ending in April, with the number of active carriers climbing by 11,570 companies, Tucker said.
“When we hear from large carriers, their definition of capacity is different from what third parties see as capacity,” Tucker said. 3PLs and brokers are more likely to look at the total number of companies available as well as individual trucks.
The new entrants are most likely smaller carriers and owner-operators who may have spent the last few years either parked or leased to a larger company, and are striking out on their own again as freight demand returns, Tucker said.
“They could well have been carriers who let their insurance drop because they were covered through a lease with a larger carrier,” he said. As a result, the increase in active carriers probably represents a shift in capacity, not an expansion.