Preparing for Downturn: Is your fleet recession ready?

As 2022 comes to an end, many of the recessionary fears that have existed throughout the year have not gone away. Many experts theorize that these fears may come to realization in the new year. The memories of the recent freight recessions in 2008 and 2019 still haunt the thoughts of many freight professionals, as carrier companies of all sizes were forced to shut their doors for good.

While expert predictions on the possible recession vary, many offer valuable tips and practices for both large and small carrier companies. Unfortunately, based on past evidence, the smaller trucking companies are often seen as the canaries in the coal mine since they usually experience the most hardship when a recession takes hold. Many experts agree that large fleets are better equipped to handle freight recessions due to their decades of navigating through economic turmoil, but that itself does not guarantee their survival, as many large and small carrier companies filed for bankruptcy in 2019. The companies that made it through the freight recessions of the past were those that were scrappy and adaptable in the face of volatility.  

One of the key characteristics of companies that successfully navigated a previous recession was taking care of their employees and other assets. Robert LaValley, owner of the New York Based Lavalle Transportation, reflected on the 2008 recession and noted that, “We took care of our drivers and made sure that they made it to the other side of the recession, not quit and or leave the industry entirely.” LaValley, like many, stated that he saved money where he could so when the light at the end of the tunnel could be seen they could get up and running with a team firing on all cylinders. Companies also invested in other assets by performing overdue maintenance of their fleets to keep their trucks on the road.

The largest expenditure that all trucking companies, no matter the size, must face is their fueling. With the seemingly never-ending volatility of the fuel market, there is no time like the present to make sure your companies fueling program is set and providing tangible savings and profitability throughout the volatility.  Carrier fueling adaptability is an essential trait for smaller carrier companies that are often excluded from large deals that many of the large carriers receive. Smaller carriers can fuel at locations that align with their program or they can look outside of the major truck stops that line the interstates and find their fueling off the beaten path away from potentially large retail markups. Maurice Evans, an owner operator, recently stated in an interview with Freightwaves that, “trucking isn’t for the faint of heart,” when referencing the high fuel prices, the rising operational costs, and the decline of spot market rates. Small fleets need to be able to bend and maybe take the risk 10-20 miles out of route to save as much as possible.

In conclusion, there is no golden rule when it comes to successfully navigating a freight recession, but keeping employees happy and monitoring fuel expenses give companies the best chance of achieving the most important, but basic, function of all carriers, keeping the trucks on the road.

Trucking industry prepared for 2023 recession (

Is your fleet recession-ready? 5 tips to managing a downturn. – Truck News

Experts discuss how truckers can survive freight recession – FreightWaves

Why a trucking recession won’t affect all truck drivers – FreightWaves

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