All signals are flashing green for truckload carriers. Growing revenue per driver per week and falling empty-mile percentages pushed operating ratios down, giving carriers more confidence to purchase new and used equipment. In most lanes in the country, carriers hold pricing power and will be able to increase contract rates in the 2021 bid cycle. That’s fueling higher new truck orders and rising driver pay on the part of some carriers. We don’t think carrier sentiment has reached the point of irrational exuberance — there’s far too much uncertainty with regard to the progress of the COVID pandemic, the macroeconomic picture and ultimately freight demand.But 3-, 4- and 5-year-old used trucks are all moving back up in price, the first time all model years have seen correlated price increases since May 2019.For the time being, carriers should focus on strict cost and yield discipline to run as profitably and sustainably as possible. When demand is high, capacity is constrained and relationships between shippers and providers are in flux. Carriers should take the opportunity to reengineer their networks with an eye toward long-term asset utilization and headhaul-to-backhaul ratio.
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