Raise your rates but not your hopes: Survey sez

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — You can expect drivers’ wages to go up in 2011, but not by much more than 5 percent.

The reason they’re going up? Rates are increasing; the driver shortage will worsen because of demographics and CSA; and the probable change in hours of service will mean it will take more drivers to deliver the same amount of freight.

The only reason they’re not going up by more than 5 percent? The economy remains stagnant and high unemployment in general will help the driver pool remain somewhat deep.

Those are some of the key findings in the recent Business Expectations quarterly survey released by the Transport Capital Partners, (TCP), a Tennessee-based consulting company.

TCP uses the quarterly survey to collect the insights and opinions of executives nationwide to report on the current state of the industry and future expectations.

More than 60 percent of the carriers queried expect wages to rise; only 20 percent expect wages to flatline.

Besides the expected increase in salaries, TCP found that carriers are pre-occupied with their ratios of drivers vs owner-operators. And with good reason.

"With credit conditions expected to remain the same over the next year, it is understandable that carriers are interested in building owner-operators numbers as both a source of drivers and capital," remarked Lana Batts, TCP Partner.

More than 75 percent of the carriers indicated that they are recruiting for driver openings that represent zero to ten percent of their driver force. This response reinforces expected increases in freight over the year ahead while slightly more than one in six are recruiting for 11- to 20 percent of their driver force.

"The uncertainty about the impact of CSA 2010 maybe accelerating recruiting efforts," observed Batts.

The survey also asked carriers if they have given any consideration to getting out of the business altogether.

For the second quarter in a row the number saying “yes” rose slightly to 18 percent.

When broken down by revenue (above and below $25 million) the smaller fleets who said “yes” were at 25 percent compared to only 10 percent of the larger ones.

Cautions Batts: "In general carriers under $25 million are less optimistic on volumes, rates, and credit availability. This indicates a sizable portion of carrier capacity maybe vulnerable to a sluggish economy and increased fuel prices unless rates increase quickly and broadly."

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