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Current numbers to know in trucking

Numerous statistics can help the trucking continue to improve and meet regulations.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

The trucking industry's two-month stretch of job loss came to an end in April, as companies in this space added around 700 jobs, according to information recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor as part of its monthly jobs report.

The uptick in jobs aligns with the rest of the economy as 160,000 jobs across the board were added last month. While not as robust as some economists had hoped, it was still positive news. Additionally, unemployment remained unchanged at around 5 percent. 

According to The New York Times, while the economy did not expand as much as some economists had previously hoped, gains in the labor market are being looked at more reliably. Growth in the economy will eventually pick up.

"The trucking industry's two-month stretch of job loss came to an end in April."

Employment numbers will also play into whether the Federal Reserve decides to hike interest rates during the upcoming June meeting. After the minutes were released from the April meeting, the Fed indicated that rates would likely increase if data and trends point to strong economic growth during the second quarter. Inflation is also being carefully looked at as it nears the objective of 2 percent, CNBC stated.

A potential hike would be expected, but the timing may still come as a bit of a shock to some. When rates were last raised in December 2015, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen indicated benchmark rates would increase in 2016, but it was anyone's guess as to exactly when such a change could occur. If rates go up in June, it might come as a surprise to some investors. Most did not expect a hike until later in 2016.

The health of the economy and other factors, such as interest rates, have a direct relationship to the trucking industry. It's important for carriers, shippers, receivers and others in this space to prepare for any possible changes stemming from the ever-shifting economic climate. 

Pocket Guide is released

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently released the 2016 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics. With this information, fleets can potentially spot trends and adjust accordingly. For example, the economic impact of various regulations within the industry can be examined to see if they are actually hurting a fleet's bottom line because of additional costs.

The Pocket Guide also helps the FMCSA develop a better understanding of just how large the trucking industry actually is today. The agency stated that the number of large trucks registered was nearly 11 million in 2014, an increase from the 10.5 million in 2013.

In terms of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), large trucks logged just over 279 billion miles in 2014. Trucking is a vital aspect of the American economy, and companies rely on the transportation method to move freight and other goods. In fact, trucking transported 72.5 percent of total weight of freight, by far the most of any transportation mode. Rail was second at 10 percent.

Every year since 2002, the amount of weight trucking transports has increased. For instance, over a decade ago, drivers were delivering 11.9 million tons freight and in 2013, it increased to 14.5 million tons.

Importance of roadside inspections

The Pocket Guide also highlighted the frequency of roadside inspections, which are defined as an examination of a vehicle and/or a driver by an authorized safety inspector. These inspections help determine if the driver, vehicle or both are following either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or Hazardous Materials Regulations.

"A majority of these inspections fall under Walk-Around, while the second-most were Full Inspections."

A majority of these inspections fall under Walk-Around, while the second-most were Full Inspections and then Driver-Only.

Approximately 95 percent of roadside inspections are conducted by state inspectors, and in 2015, they tallied 3.2 million driver and vehicle inspections. A large number of inspections took place near the U.S.-Mexico border in parts of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California, a practice drivers who routinely travel through that route should take note of.

These roadside inspections can encompass many checks, from the maintenance of the vehicle to ensuring drivers have the proper paperwork. But inspectors can also be checking to ensure that trucks transporting food are in compliance with various rules regarding the safe delivery of food.

While these rules, as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, will not officially go into effect for at least another year for a majority of fleets, drivers will still want to ensure their vehicles are properly maintained. This includes ensuring the refrigeration system is working to prevent food from spoiling, for instance.

The Pocket Guide also illustrated that roadside inspections do occur and truckers should expect them. Other statistics in the document highlight the importance of trucking, especially at a time when there is still some uncertainty surrounding the economy.

Even so, trucking is the most popular mode of transportation.