The trucking industry was glad to see 2019 end. All of 2018 saw only 310 shutdowns of trucking firms, not surprising as it was one of the best years in the history of the industry. But it was still sobering to see nearly 800 firms shut down in the first nine months of 2019 alone.
Although few experts are upbeat about 2020, or its first half, at the very. Record levels of company shutdowns may continue this year.
Unpleasant realities behind headlines shutdown
People with experience in the industry undoubtedly recognize that countless human dramas are behind those numbers, complete with financial and legal ordeals.
Early last December, for example, Securities and Exchange Commission charges led to indictments of two former Celadon executives. The company’s financial troubles included a $42.2 million fine for accounting fraud by the prior management.
At midnight on December 8, when Celadon stopped operations, 3,800 workers were suddenly unemployed with no vacation time and no dental or other health benefits.
That included 2,553 drivers, many of whom were out on the road trying to figure out some way to get home on their own dime, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Transport Topics.
Planning for the future
Late last year, John Hitch of Fleet Owner made the case that the industry must expect hard times after a few better-than-average years, in the form of a “significant correction” and a “regression to the mean.”
He also reminds management to keep its eyes on their to-do lists to make it through to the other side.
Observers expect the industry to get ahead of costs at all levels, while equipment makers slow production. One CEO also suggested trying to keep dedicated drivers and staff.