Tank fleets continue to shine during 2012
It was another good year for the tank truck industry in 2012, and this year’s Bulk Transporter Annual Gross Revenue Report shows that carriers were very busy.
However, this report also suggests that operating costs are taking a bigger bite out of revenues.
Tank truck fleets grew by about 5% during 2012, and loads increased by more than 6%. Capacity remained relatively tight during the year, with many tank truck carrier executives saying they were reluctant to expand their fleets despite increased shipper demand.
A variety of economic factors drove tank truck carrier revenues in 2012. Housing starts increased by about 21%, and commercial construction also picked up. Cement production grew by more than 6%, plastics production was up about 3.5%, and chemical production rebounded after bottoming out in 2009.
Work in the oil and gas shale regions created a need for at least 66,000 tank trucks in recent years, according to economic reports. The energy sector remained a strong driver for the tank truck industry in 2012, despite a slowdown in drilling for natural gas.
The robust demand for tank truck services is clearly evident in this year’s Gross Revenue Report. More than 60% of tank truck carriers participating in this year’s report posted higher revenues, but less than 25% achieved improvements in operating ratios.
All but two of the Top 10 tank truck carriers found revenue growth in 2012. Most notably, Kenan Advantage Group became the first tank truck carrier to break through the $1 billion gross revenue ceiling.
The rest of the Top 10 included Quality Distribution Inc, Trimac Transportation, Schneider National Bulk Carriers, Ruan Transportation Management, Superior Bulk Logistics, Groendyke Transport Inc, A&R Logistics Inc, Foodliner, and Dupré Logistics LLC.
Combined Top 10 revenues were $4.2 billion in 2012, an impressive improvement over the $3.7 billion tallied in 2011. Top 10 revenues accounted for 65.2% of the total in this report.
The Top 25 carriers achieved $5.8 billion in revenues, or almost 90% of the total represented in this report. In 2011, the Top 25 accounted for $5.21 billion.
Total 2012 revenues for all 53 carriers in this report were $6,446,648,673. In contrast, the 57 carriers in the 2011 report accounted for a combined total of $5,983,948,515.
Average revenue for 2012 was $121,634,880, up more than $15 million from the average of $106,602,448 in 2011. The median carrier on the list, the one with an equal number of carriers above and below it, had revenues of $50,071,000. In 2011, the median carrier revenue was $45,165,200.
Operating ratios for both 2012 and 2011 were supplied by 30 of the carriers in this report. Roughly 38% showed improvement compared with the previous year. The operating ratio represents operating expenses as a percentage of revenue.
A majority of the 2012 operating ratios were above 95%. Twenty-one fleets reported operating ratios between 95.0% and 99.9%, and one was at 100%. This was almost the same as the previous year.
Ten carriers reported operating ratios below 94.9%, and two of those were below 90%. In 2011, 13 carriers had operating ratios below 94.9%
Many of the fleets participating in the 2012 report submitted data used to calculate tractor revenues. These numbers give an indication of productivity levels, and it is clear that fleets were busy during 2012. The average tractor revenue for 2012 was $212,474, down slightly from $215,425 in 2011, but still strong.
Six of the Top 10 reported tractor revenues, averaging $235,351. This was down from an unusually high $271,941 average reported by the Top 10 in 2011.
Petroleum haulers once again claimed to top spot for fleet productivity. The best productivity (tractor revenue of $272,566) came from a Northeast petroleum carrier. The lowest tractor revenue ($88,340) was from a mixed fleet operation.
Average revenue per tractor for a representative sample of petroleum haulers was $231,975, up slightly from the previous year’s average of $230,469. The lowest tractor revenue reported by a petroleum fleet was $191,712.
Five chemical haulers accounted for average revenue per tractor of $221,320, up from $192,862 the previous year. The high was $247,506 and the low was $199,091.
Mixed fleets with both chemical and petroleum operations had average tractor revenue of $194,007. The high was $271,445.
Among carriers focused on dry bulk hauling, tractor revenue averaged $183,010, down from the 2011 average of $201,925. Food haulers reported average tractor revenue of $212,025.
Many of the figures used here are from preaudited reports and may include nonbulk revenues or revenues from subsidiary tank truck carriers. In all cases, the numbers were supplied directly to Bulk Transporter. The staff greatly appreciates the cooperation of all who helped in the preparation of this report.