Schneider National, the largest privately owned U.S. truckload carrier, is replacing one-third of its truck fleet, purchasing more than 3,000 new trucks in 2012.
That equates to 75 new trucks a week, the Green Bay, Wis.-based company said. Schneider will buy the 2012 and 2013 tractors primarily from Freightliner.
Schneider National increased revenue 9.7 percent last year to approximately $3.73 billion, making it the seventh-largest trucking operator in the U.S.
Schneider’s equipment spend is the biggest trucking asset purchase announced this year, but it isn’t expected to significantly loosen industrywide capacity.
Industry sources say truckload capacity, which shrank 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a Journal of Commerce survey, is in “equilibrium.”
“There’s really no imbalance on the truckload side,” John Barnes, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said May 1 at the NASSTRAC 2012 Logistics conference.
With a few notable exceptions such as Knight Transportation and Heartland Express, “you’re just not hearing about truckload capacity growth,” Barnes said.
Schneider’s older trucks are likely to end up on the used truck market, but that won’t have a significant impact on that market, according to ACT Research.
“The used truck industry is starved for inventory, so this will actually help relieve some pressure,” said Steve Tam, vice president for the commercial vehicle sector.
“This type of activity is baked into our replacement model, so it is sort of business as expected,” Tam said. “But it’s nice to have a company and quantity we can point to.”
Schneider’s new trucks will be equipped with OnGuard collision avoidance technology the company says will make vehicles and drivers safer on the highway.
OnGuard features a forward-looking radar sensor that monitors the distance, speed and deceleration of a vehicle ahead and alerts truck drivers when they’re too close.
"We always look for new ways to prevent crashes," said Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety and security at Schneider National.
“Our drivers are trained to keep a safe following distance of seven seconds on dry pavement and at least 14 seconds on wet or snowy roads,” he said.
When the gap between a tractor-trailer and another vehicle closes to less than 3.6 seconds, the OnGuard system sounds a warning. It can even apply the brakes.
The system not only protects drivers and motorists, it will help drivers be more productive, Osterberg said, cutting down on unexpected truck maintenance.
That translates into less waiting time and more driving time — and more miles and pay — for truck drivers Schneider National is looking to recruit.
The trucks will also be more efficient, saving almost 2 million gallons of diesel fuel a year and more than 22,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, Schneider said.