If you need more evidence that an economic recovery is underway, Fleet Owner’s 2011 Top 500 Private Fleets offers some encouraging numbers. While things may not feel much better to the general
public, America’s largest private fleets—fleets that serve a broad array of our most vital businesses and industries—have stopped shrinking and have begun to grow again.
In the eight years of compiling the Top 500, only last year’s 2010 report recorded a year-over-year decrease in the total number of trucks and tractors operated by the country’s largest private fleets. Reflecting activity when we were deep in the grip of the Great Recession, 2010’s Top 500 fleets showed a steep 12.5% drop in equipment numbers compared to 2009 totals. For 2011, the Top 500 has recovered that loss and then some. Not only are power-unit totals up 15.4% over 2010 numbers, but they even exceed 2009 totals by a slim 1%, and are 7.7% above 2008 numbers.
Looking at the nine general categories we use to help describe the parent businesses of our Top 500 private fleets, eight recorded equipment increases over 2010, with petroleum/ gas companies and service businesses showing the largest jumps. Utilities and similar operations such as cable providers showed the only decline.
Even if you’re not running a private fleet, these numbers are good news indeed. While private fleets remain nearly invisible to anyone outside of trucking, they account for more than three-quarters of all commercial vehicles in the U.S. If the largest of these fleets are receiving capital investments from their parent organizations, it should signal their confidence in near-term growth for their businesses.
Each year, the Top 500 is recreated from scratch by FleetSeek, the premier collector of fleet data, using public and proprietary sources verified through electronic, print and telephone follow-ups. The rankings are based on total power units controlled by a fleet, which we break down by tractors and straight trucks. Trailer numbers are also provided, but do not factor into the rankings.
This year, we’ve added 70 new companies to the Top 500. In some cases, operations that were reported as separate fleets in previous years have been consolidated into a single fleet,
while others have moved in the opposite direction. Of the 430 returning fleets, 152 reported an increase in size, 173 a decrease, and 105 remained unchanged.
Given the volume of new information collected each year, some caution needs to be exercised when trying to draw conclusions from year-to-year comparisons. Taken as a whole, though, the Fleet Owner 500 has proven to be a good indicator of private fleet health and activity.
In addition to this print version, you can find the 2011 Fleet Owner 500 rankings on our website (fleetowner.com). Reprints are also available, as is a database version with more detailed fleet information. For ordering and price information, contact Reggie Lawrence at [email protected].
If you would like to have your fleet considered for next year’s Top 500, send contact info to Ron Roth at rroth@fleetseek. com.