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Panel: e-commerce Changing Fleet Specs

The average length-of-haul for trucking has fallen more than 34 percent over the last 17 years, driven by the rise of e-commerce, says American Trucking Associations chief economist Bob Costello.

CCJ magazine reports:

“Since 2000, large big-box retailers had a handful of distribution centers around the country, but today they have dozens,” he says. “More distribution centers has reduced the average length of haul into and out of those centers.”

The trend has even affected for-hire truckload dry van, as the average length-of-haul has dropped from nearly 800 miles in the year 2000 to 524 miles in 2017.

Even though there hasn’t been a major migration of truckload customers moving into the less-than-truckload or local pickup and delivery businesses as a result of the rise of e-commerce, changes in the distribution model resulting in more regional haul and final mile applications has changed how some carriers are approaching truck specs, OEMs say.

“We are starting to hear more conversations from customers on how they should spec vehicles differently,” says Navistar On-highway Marketing Director Jim Nachtman.

On-demand shipping isn’t the only factor driving change. The competition for drivers, namely getting them home, is also changing freight patterns.

Wesley Slavin, Peterbilt’s on-highway marketing manager, says the company’s customer council has noted a regional shift in marketplace, but says “manufacturing [location] hasn’t moved and the end user hasn’t moved. They haven’t gotten closer together. What’s happened is fewer carriers are going from dock-to-dock. Maybe they’re dropping halfway and another driver takes it the rest of the way.”

Such a dramatic change in traffic patterns has also influenced equipment trends. According to IHS Polk, day cabs made up 27 percent of the North American market in 2008. By 2013, day cabs reached 37 percent of the market before leveling off to about 39 percent in 2016 and 2017.

“All of our predictions show that the amount of vehicles that are day cabs will be going higher and higher throughout next few years,” Nachtman says. “We do predict going over 50 percent in the next few years will be day cabs.”

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