2013 Annual Review & Outlook - Trucking
The dominant mode of freight transportation in the United States, trucking enjoyed its best year in 2012 since the Great Depression of 2008-09. Long-haul truckload and regional less-than-truckload carriers found a balance in supply and demand, and many gave up their past practice of chasing unprofitable freight. Rates responded by rising early in the year, and carriers were able to sustain them into the fall, producing profits not seen since the mid-2000s. Perhaps no company illustrated carriers' success more than YRC Worldwide, which went from the brink of bankruptcy in 2011 to profitability in the third quarter, barely a year after James Welch took over as chairman and CEO.
But the industry faces several challenges in 2013 to sustain the growth, not the least of which is federal regulations such as new hours-of-service rules that, if implemented, could create new capacity strains on the industry. As capacity tightens and companies look to build on their sustainability initiatives, more shippers are turning to intermodal rail in traditional trucking lanes. And, of course, if the economy grows more rapidly than expected, the truck driver shortage that in many cases has had a marginal impact on shippers could become a significant problem for an industry looking to sustain a rally.