January 2021 Market Insights

FleetSeek’s team of dedicated analysts have examined the fleets added over the last year (December 2019 through December 2020) to understand how these fleets are composed. The analysis that follows shows how the fleets that have been added differ from the overall breakdowns prior to these additions.

This month we focused our attention on the breakouts by fleet type and fleet size.

Fleet type

Owner Operator fleets accounted for 24.1% of the fleets prior to December 2019 but made up 56.7% of the additions over the past year. Private fleets comprised 51.0% of the FleetSeek database before the additions, but only 30.7% of the fleets added were Private. For-Hire fleets made up the smallest portion of fleets that have been added over the past year (12.6%) and accounted for about a quarter of all fleets as of November 2019.

Breakout by Fleet Type

Fleet size

To understand how the total vehicle size of the newly added fleets differed from the overall breakdown as of November 2019, we partitioned the data by small (1-24 total vehicles), medium (25-74 total vehicles), and large (75+ total vehicles). For this analysis, we excluded Owner Operator fleets and focused just on Private and For-Hire.

On the chart below, the outer circle represents the fleets that were added, while the inner circle shows how the data broke down before the additions. As of November 2019, 92.8% of the fleets in the U.S. were small (1-24 total vehicles), 5.4% were medium (25-74 total vehicles), and 1.8% were large (75+ total vehicles).

While the most popular fleet size added over the past year was still small, its share grew and accounted for 98.0% of the fleets added. The medium and large categories thus shrunk and medium accounted for only 1.8% while large accounted for a mere 0.2% of the fleets added.

Breakout by fleet size

Analyst Observations

The data above shows that the past year has seen fewer Private, For-Hire, and just generally larger fleets being added as compared to how the overall fleet breakdown looked in November 2019. Even within just the Private and For-Hire fleets, we see that the overwhelming majority were of the smallest fleet size (1-24 total vehicles).

2020 was a rollercoaster year in general and trucking experienced the full gamut. It would appear there was just less appetite for larger fleets to come online in 2020. One possible explanation for the increased share of Owner Operators, in particular, maybe the steep declines in trucking employment experienced in April of 2020.

While the industry did eventually gain back these jobs by the end of 2020, it was digging itself out of a massive 88,300 job hole. Anecdotally, we have heard of robust offers on trucks to help make sales during a difficult year.

There is also the fact that after the very early initial pandemic shocks in March and April of 2020, truckers were deemed essential workers, making it an option for employment where other alternatives may have dried up.

This unique combination of factors could have been the tipping point for some drivers to strike out on their own and become Owner Operators.

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