Asset-based truckload carriers are in their best position since 2018: Revenue per driver per week is surging, empty miles are down, and operating ratios are low. Carrier performance is being driven by robust volumes and tight trucking capacity, with both sides of the marketplace being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We see some headwinds to carrier efficiency on the horizon, namely in higher costs for recruiting and retaining their drivers. This week Heartland Express, perhaps the most cost-disciplined publicly traded truckload carrier, announced driver pay increases averaging 6% across its fleet.
As this report is released, it’s too early to speak definitively about the results of the 2020 U.S. election, but it appears that a divided government result may be positive for the economy and surface transportation companies. A President Joe Biden may provide more clarity and predictability in trade policy while a Republican Senate should succeed in blocking onerous tax increases. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also this week called for new fiscal stimulus before the end of the year, which should help support consumer demand as employment recovers.
In our view, this November and December will be lucrative months for truckload carriers, who are now in the position of weighing customer service, yield management, revenue growth and operating efficiency.
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