Last Year Proves Brutal to Trucking Firms, but Better Times Predicted

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, May. 17, 2010 12:00 am  

Arkansas Business' list of largest trucking companies doing business in the state showed some shifts in rankings in 2009, but mostly it showed how harrowing the recession has been: All the top 15 firms saw declines in revenue compared with 2008. (Click here for a PDF of the 2009 list and here for a spreadsheet version. Click here for a PDF and here for a spreadsheet of the largest private fleets.)

Those income decreases ranged from the almost 41 percent revenue plunge experienced by giant YRC Worldwide to the - by comparison - relatively minor sales decline of 4.9 percent seen by Willis Shaw Express.

Previous years' lists have simply ranked the companies with a big presence in the state by revenue. This year's list also compares revenue year-over-year.

Obviously, the declines in revenue last year do not necessarily translate in all cases to lack of profitability. Some companies, like J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., have managed to "weather the storm," as Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said.

One company that didn't was C. Bean Transport Inc. of Amity, which went bankrupt and shut down operations in March. In addition to the economic downturn, C. Bean Transport was plagued by family disputes that resulted in lawsuits involving its parent company, Curt Bean Lumber Co. of Glenwood.

But better days are ahead, said Kidd and Donald Broughton, a transportation analyst with Avondale Partners of Nashville, Tenn.

"There's no denying that there is, from a freight perspective, a recovery. It's true in truck freight; it's true in air freight, rail freight, intermodal," said Broughton, based in Avondale's St. Louis office.

"We are beginning to see signs of recovery," Kidd said. "Every trucking company owner with whom I've visited with in the last three months has indicated that orders are up. Freight rates are up as much as 10 to 15 percent in some cases.

"They are now, oddly enough, beginning to feel a shortage of drivers, which a year ago nobody would have expected that to occur. I would imagine that by the third and fourth quarter of 2010 we're going to get a really good indicator of where this economy is going by how well the trucking companies are doing," he said.

"And I believe we'll begin to see some real good numbers in the third and fourth quarter."


YRC Holds Onto No. 1



Please read our comments policy before commenting.