By most accounts, 2014 was a great year for the trucking industry. The American Trucking Associations’ Trucking Tonnage Index reached an all-time high in August and nearly beat that number again in October. The economy’s slow-but-steady recovery has led to more freight demand than the industry can handle, and the tight capacity environment has allowed many carriers to raise freight rates as a result. And the Institute for Supply Management’s New Orders Index that reflects manufacturing orders is experiencing an 18-month run of growth dating back to June 2013 and currently is trending at levels not seen in more than a decade.
While infrastructure and congestion issues were still a challenge last year and will remain so in 2015, the rollback of the HOS provisions as part of the latest spending bill that halts two requirements – that a 34-hour restart must contain two consecutive 1-5 a.m. periods and the restart must be limited to once per week – should allow carriers to recoup some of the resulting productivity losses experienced in the last year and a half. But the driver shortage and the impact of new and forthcoming regulations both threaten to erode fleet profitability.