Refrigeratedtransporter 4748 Rt Gross Revenue 2010

The recession’s toll: Reefer revenue shifts into reverse, though bright spots glimmer

April 30, 2010
After the thorough shellacking many companies’ bottom lines received from the economic recession last year, seeing 2009 in the rear-view mirror brings only the comfort that it’s behind us—for the most part

After the thorough shellacking many companies’ bottom lines received from the economic recession last year, seeing 2009 in the rear-view mirror brings only the comfort that it’s behind us—for the most part.

A typical casualty of the recession that reached its climax in 2009, revenue growth for refrigerated fleets shifted into reverse last year.

Only seven companies of the 36 contributors to Refrigerated Transporter’s annual Gross Revenue Report for reefer fleets tallied positive growth numbers in 2009. Conversely, only eight of 32 fleets showed negative growth in 2008.

That means roughly one in five carriers losing money a year ago, in contrast to three out of four making money in 2008.

Findings from the latest Gross Revenue Report indicate that combined revenue in 2009 for the 36 refrigerated carriers represented in the survey was $4,484,882,807, a 10.48% decline from 2008’s total of $5,009,845,979. Compare that to the total 2008 growth rate of a little more than 4%. Average revenue among the 36 companies was $124,580,078 in 2009, down from $139,162,388 in 2008. 

Impressively, Coastline Transport Inc of Fowler CA, ranked 33rd overall, led the entire surveyed field in revenue growth for 2009 with a stunning 85.23% rate.

Operating ratio measures a company’s operating efficiency by calculating operating expenses as a percentage of revenue. Ratios remained relatively unchanged with an average of 95.43 in 2009 compared with 95.33 for all fleets in 2008.

Revenue rankings

Ranking first in gross revenue last year was the perennial leader: C R England. Since 2005, this carrier has anchored the top spot, and has done so more often than any other carrier taking part in this survey. In 2004, it came in third behind Transportation Industries Holdings and second-place Prime Inc. Yet in each of the three years previous to 2004, C R England ranked second behind Prime.

Rounding out 2009’s top five in this survey, in descending order, are Marten Transport, Stevens Transport, Greatwide Logistics Services, and Frozen Food Express Industries. Factoring in 2008’s revenue figures, three of these five companies held the same ranking for that year. The one small exception: Frozen Food Express ranked fourth and Greatwide fifth in 2008 revenue.

Of the 36 companies participating, 11—or nearly one in three—are new to the 2009 survey or were not present in the last published report of September 2008. The participation of these companies is sincerely appreciated. Shaffer Trucking, a participant in years past, has rejoined the fold, coming in at number 8. Sunco Carriers, ranked 13th; IWX Motor Freight, 15th; Continental Express Inc, 17th; K&J Trucking Inc, 25th; HF Campbell & Son Inc, 32nd; and Seagate Transportation Services, in 35th place are also returnees.

The four “newbies” and their rankings are: O & S Trucking Inc, 14th; Koleaseco Inc, 26th; Buel Inc, 30th; and Coastline Transport Inc, 33rd.

5- and 10-year snapshots

Twenty-six of the 36 companies in our current survey also had rankings in our survey for 2005 gross revenue. Using the 2005 figures as a benchmark puts the recession’s fiscal devastation in perspective—and it’s not bleak news for the industry.

Combined, these 26 firms generated a total of $3,414,628,333 in 2005. In 2009, that aggregate total surged to $4,006,500,279—a 17.3 percent gain. 

For these 26 firms, average company gross revenue for 2005 was $131,331,859. In 2009, it advanced to $154,096,165.

Let’s take this time machine back even further, to the revenue figures the RT survey recorded for 2000. Seventeen companies participating in the 2009 survey also were in the one we conducted for 2000 revenue. That year, those 17 firms produced revenue totaling $1,564,819,891. This figure skyrocketed 58.8 percent ($919,792,092) for those same companies in the 2005 study.

Moneywise, these 17 companies didn’t miss a beat from 2005 to 2009. Combined, they generated $2,916,419,474 in 2009 revenue. That is a 17.4 percent upward movement, or $431,807,491 more money for these entities.


Though there are numerous surveys of motor carrier revenue available, this particular survey is the only compilation of revenue figures and comparisons focused solely on refrigerated fleets. Generally, from 30 to 50 refrigerated carriers participate in RT’s Gross Revenue Report.

Naturally, not all refrigerated carriers chose to be included in the 2009 survey. Their reasons for non-participation are their own. They range from a desire not to share financial information in the face of mounting competition, or simply a lack of interest or motivation.

The absence of previous revenue powerhouses—or any other industry player, for that matter—may affect survey accuracy to a degree. Since we provided several opportunities for carrier participation, we’ve done the most representative job we can.

To any non-participating companies having regrets or second thoughts about their decision, there’s always next year—and we heartily welcome your return.

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