red US Truck with chrome parts
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North American trucking is being hobbled by shortages of parts, keeping up to 10% of fleets off the roads, while both trucks and drivers are also in short supply.

Many carriers have reported 6%-10% of their fleet being out of service due to a lack of brake, sensor and other parts, said Ben Cubitt, SVP network services and consulting at Transplace.

One carrier with a fleet of about 2,500 trucks had 11% of them side-lined at one point, he said, adding: “This has been a growing issue over the past six-seven months.”

Down time for trucks has also expanded from an average of two to four days to seven to 10 days.

“We’re hearing lots of reports that carriers have to park trucks as a result of being unable to get maintenance or replacement parts, in addition to delays in getting the Class Eights [trucks] themselves,” said Matt Harding, sSVP data science at Transplace, in a market update last week.

According to the Professional Driver Agency, the number-one source of frustration for truck drivers is mechanical/breakdown issues. Scott Dismuke, VP of operations, said “equipment supply chain issues are clearly leading to driver frustration”.

Mr Cubitt reported that one trucking executive expressed more concern over out-of-service capacity than the driver shortage, saying that he had got used to operating with 90% of his tractors seated.

And the driver shortage itself worsened last year, according to Transplace’s survey of truckers, from 93% of trucks seated in 2020 to 89% last year, and reached 88% at the start of 2022.

And operators are also facing challenges getting hold of trucks. Orders for Class 8s were down 50% year on year in January, according to ACT Research statistics. The cause is low parts supplies, prompting manufacturers to accept orders only at the same rate as their production ability.

ACT president and senior analyst Kenny Vieth said: “Order weakness continues to be primarily, if not entirely, due to supply-side shortages that continue to restrict production.”

And second-hand trucks are also hard to come by. The average price for a used Class 8 truck rose more than $30,000 over the past year, to top out at $70,000, Mr Harding said.

Trailer availability is another headache. Transplace was recently approached by a client who needed 50 trailers. Mr Cubitt said: “It’s proving difficult. You can’t find trailers right now.”

Market conditions offer little hope for respite. Mr Cubitt noted that FTR Transportation Intelligence is forecasting active truck utilisation to remain above 96%, which translates into a year of strong demand and tight capacity. And any piece of the puzzle that crumbles will exacerbate the capacity challenges in the market.

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