14 things we learned about private truck fleets

Canada’s private fleets have offered further insights into their activities, with the release of the fifth annual benchmarking survey conducted by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) and supported by the U.S.-based National Private Truck Council (NPTC).

  • Private fleets are in it for the customer service — 82% of survey respondents say demands for customer service drive them to private fleet models, while 12% cite cost-efficiency, and 6% refer to safety benefits.
  • Truck trade-in cycles average 6.6 years – Private fleets traded in trucks after 6.6 years in 2020, and the average held true for medium-duty and heavy-duty equipment. The heavy-duty units had an average of 443,778 km on the odometer when that time came, compared to the 413,000 km recorded by medium-duty units.

    When it came to acquiring the power units, 54% of the private fleets combined leases and purchases, while 33% focused on ownership, and 13% preferred leasing.

  • Bulk trailers have the longest service life – Bulk trailers were traded in after an average of 17.5 years in 2020, compared to flatdecks at 16 years, van trailers at 10 years, and reefers at 6.8 years.
  • Maintenance headaches are universal — “About 78% of you said you have maintenance issues to contend with on a regular basis,” said National Private Truck Council senior vice-president Tom Moore, reporting the recurring challenges captured by the survey. Regular driver-related challenges were reported by 73% of respondents, while 55% cited safety challenges, and 31% referred to equipment issues.

    Eighty-two per cent of maintenance work was outsourced, leaving just 18% handled in house. “[That’s] probably driven by the technician shortage, the technical quality of technicians you have on staff,” Moore says, referring to a potential reason.

  • Driver turnover is limited – Driver turnover among the surveyed private fleets dipped to 11.4% last year.

    Of those who leave, 39% go to another driving job, but 37% are retiring. The remainder were shown the door for disciplinary reasons.

    It was the third year in a row that the average driver age was over 50. The average newly hired driver was over 30.

  • Recruiters are stealing from one another – “We are dealing with a recruiting pool that’s getting shallower and shallower,” Moore says.

    Forty-seven per cent of new drivers were coming from other private fleets, while 42% came from the for-hire sector.

  • Abstracts are the final word – When selecting new drivers, every surveyed private fleet reviews submitted driver abstracts, while 89% conduct road tests, 72% complete reference checks, and 61% complete criminal background checks.
  • Drivers see the benefits of private fleets – Private fleet drivers averaged 55 cents per mile last year, or £27.49 per hour. Starting pay averaged £57,240 per year, while drivers maxed out at £84,916.

    But those who work behind the wheel also see extensive benefit packages. All surveyed fleets offered medical and dental coverage, with 89% offering bereavement counseling, holidays, vision care, short-term disability, and pensions.

    Also, 94% offered life insurance, and 83% had long-term disability coverage. “You all provide very generous benefits,” Moore says.

  • Private fleets are putting technology to work — All surveyed private fleets are tracking idle time, speeding, and geofenced locations. And 92% are tracking harsh braking and using electronic logs, while 69% are using technology to track fuel economy, fuel taxes, and harsh acceleration.
  • Private fleets are keeping to themselves – The interest in soliciting freight for backhauls has waned, Moore says.

    Just 22% of surveyed fleets were looking for such opportunities last year, down from 44% in the 2018 benchmarking survey.

    Surveyed private fleets handled 60% of their outbound loads in 2020, with 29% of the freight going to for-hire carriers, 9% to third parties, and 1% to rail. Of the 55% of outbound loads heading to retail locations, there were about 7.8 stops per route, down from 11.3 stops a year earlier.

  • They know safety pays – When it comes to trimming costs, 72% of the fleets are relying on safety measures, while 33% are looking to reduce empty miles or improve fuel efficiency. Twenty-two percent are looking to improve driver turnover and onboard technology to reduce costs.
  • Cybersecurity is seen as a threat – Among the surveyed fleets, 77% said they are monitoring cyber threats and phishing attacks, while 73% have received training on the issue.

    Fifty percent have an incident response plan, and an equal share are conducting ongoing reviews.

  • About 2/3 of a driver’s time involves driving – Drivers typically spent 30.5 hours driving and 15.7 hours a week on non-driving activities. “That’s about 10 hours, 12 hours less than what we’re finding in the United States,” Moore observes.
  • Interest in sustainability is sustained – 72% of surveyed private fleets are involved in sustainability programs, and the related benefits drop directly to the bottom line, Moore says.

    Of the tools that are being leveraged to reach related goals, 62% of surveyed fleets are using anti-idling devices, and 38% are using trailer skirts.

    Medium-duty fleets averaged 7.9 mpg (29.77 L/100 km), compared to the 6.75 mpg (34.85 L/100 km) recorded by heavy-duty fleets.