Over 71,000 U.S. Fleets Added Year-to-Date

 In Blog, Market Insights

A lot of fleets have come online in the U.S. in 2021. The number of U.S. fleets tracked in the FleetSeek database has increased 10.5% year-to-date, representing 71,201 additional fleets. This month we are breaking out these fleets to give you insights into which types of fleets are seeing the most growth and we will help explain why that may be.

One quick note on how we are calculating these additional fleets and the changes in fleets. Aside from new fleets forming, fleets can also reactivate, which will likewise have the effect of them being added back to the FleetSeek database. In this post we are referring to how many additional fleets there are as of August compared to the beginning of 2021—both new and reactivated. For more details on both fleet reactivations and deactivations for 2021, be sure to check out our recent post on the topic.

Growth Among All Fleet Types

All three fleet types—for-hire, owner operator, and private—showed increases to the number of total fleets. The largest growth was among for-hire fleets, increasing 16.3% year-to-date. Owner operator and private fleets also saw robust gains, increasing by 12.6% and 6.5%, respectively.

The gains in fleet count are assuredly related to the general growth the economy has seen so far in 2021, with businesses resuming operations throughout the country. The trucking industry in general, however, has been facing headwinds in the form of a driver shortage for quite some time, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and other trends in the industry¹. With this shortage, many fleets have been offering hearty sign-on bonuses for drivers². With this growth in the number of fleets so far in 2021, we can see why those incentives may be necessary.

Smallest Fleets Saw Biggest Gains

Another way we can look at these added fleets is in terms of their size. Here we are defining fleet size by the total number of vehicles in the fleet. This includes both trucks and tractors but excludes trailers.

Given the struggle to hire drivers, perhaps it is not surprising to see the 7.9% decline in fleets with 250 or more vehicles and the largest growth (10.6%) in fleets with less than 50 vehicles.

We think this likely has a lot to do with the availability and pricing of trucks on both the used and new truck markets, making it difficult and expensive to add more trucks.

Generally speaking, these larger fleets of 250 or more vehicles are most often seen among private fleets. Aside from simply having difficulty finding drivers to fill the seats of these larger fleets, private fleets may also simply be right sizing to realign with their current business needs, which could have changed during the pandemic. Truck prices have also been climbing in 2021 as availability of new trucks has tightened, so firms could be facing some challenges acquiring additional vehicles or see this as an opportunity to dispose of vehicles in their fleet that were not being put to use. For more information on pricing and availability trends, along with how they are impacting the used trucking market, click here.

Where Private Fleets are Growing

Focusing our attention on these private fleets, we can also see which industries saw the biggest gains and which declined. To track this detail, our analysts apply SIC codes to the private fleets in FleetSeek and can categorize fleets into industries on a very granular level. Here we will be focusing on the ten major SIC code categories, but for more detail on the insights we can provide with SIC code breakouts, check out our recent post on the topic.

The finance, insurance, and real estate category was the only area to see a decline in fleets so far in 2021, decreasing by 6.3%. In terms of percentages, the category with the largest gain has been transportation and public utilities, which grew by 31.0%. However, in terms of growth in number of fleets, the construction category came out on top, adding more than 13,000 fleets.

Transportation and public utilities as a group is quite interesting since it includes the category of warehousing. According to the BLS, while utilities jobs are down a bit in 20213, transportation and warehouse jobs are up year-to-date.4 With the rise of e-commerce over the last decade, accelerated during the pandemic, the warehousing space is seeing incredible growth and is projected to continue doing so.5

And finally, construction has been seeing really strong growth numbers year-to-date. Spending, employment, and construction starts are all up in 20216, helping to explain the large number of private fleets added in this category.

About FleetSeek’s Data

All of the information shared this month is directly from FleetSeek’s proprietary database which powers the FleetSeek application. FleetSeek customers can filter fleets by fleet type, total vehicles, and industry directly in the application. For more information, contact your FleetSeek representative directly, call 888-665-9887, or email fleetseek@fleetseek.com.

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