Terminal and Joint Terminal Maintenance Facilities for Motor Freight Transportation

SIC 4231

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the operation of terminal facilities used by highway-type property carrying vehicles. Also included are terminals that provide maintenance and service for motor vehicles. Terminals operated by motor freight transportation companies for their own use are classified in SIC 4212: Local Trucking Without Storage; SIC 4213: Trucking, Except Local; SIC 4214: Local Trucking With Storage; or SIC 4215: Courier Services, Except by Air. Separate maintenance and service facilities operated by motor freight transportation companies are classified as auxiliary.

Although trucking terminals provide a number of services, from showers for truckers to truck maintenance and repair, the establishments are primarily used for their storage and consolidation facilities. Freight is combined and redistributed at these terminals in an effort to reduce the distances and costs of transportation. Terminals, therefore, are located in areas where the demand for transportation is high, and terminals are continually relocated according to shifting traffic patterns. While there are thousands of trucking terminals in the United States, most of these facilities are operated by trucking companies themselves and therefore are not included in this category. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1,715 establishments operated in this industry in 2009. Together they employed 22,682 workers who earned a total payroll of $637.5 million. Most businesses were small, with approximately 87 percent employing fewer than 20 people. Total industry revenues for other support activities for road transportation, as classified by the Census Bureau, reached $2.3 billion in 2009.

The truck terminal industry boomed after the deregulation of the industry as a whole in 1980. Deregulation resulted in a 160 percent increase in the number of registered truckers between 1980 and 1991. New truck companies were often small operations that could not afford to operate their own terminals, and many new terminals were constructed. During the early 1990s, however, shifts in both the economy and in distribution patterns reversed truck terminal expansion. Although an increase in traffic in the southeastern United States fostered growth in terminals in the region, many existing terminals were closed in the early 1990s.

A number of factors precipitated the terminal closings, such as the waning health of the trucking industry. By the late 1980s, many of the small operators who emerged after deregulation had been forced out of business. The post-deregulation boom was ended by an economic recession and an increase in competition from parcel carriers, such as United Parcel Services. The remaining companies were large and generally operated their own terminal facilities, but even they were forced to streamline their terminal networks in the 1990s.

The focus on efficiency and quality further encouraged terminal closings. Shippers and truckers were committed to reducing cargo damage and handling costs. These reductions were often achieved by minimizing the number of times freight was handled. As such, truck terminals were eliminated from the transportation equation if their use proved unnecessary according to freight handling standards, which emphasized efficiency over short-term cost savings.

One positive development in the trucking terminal facility industry in the late twentieth century was the growth of intermodalism. Intermodalism, or piggybacking, involves the use of two or more modes of transportation for freight movement. Often, railroads were unable to obtain right-of-way into ports because of the unavailability of land, creating an opportunity for intermodal truck terminals to be built in major ports.

With 440 service facilities, YRC Worldwide Inc. of Overland Park, Kansas, was one of the largest truck terminal companies in the United States in the early 2010s. Annual sales for the company were around $4.3 billion in 2010. Another important player in the industry was Con-Way Inc., based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Con-Way reported revenues of $4.9 billion in 2010. Most leading companies had diversified interests in various aspects of the trucking industry.

In the early 2010s, trucking was a multibillion-dollar industry. According to Truckinto.net, an estimated 8.9 million people were employed in trucking-related jobs, nearly 3.5 million of whom were truck drivers. Of the 15.5 million trucks in operation, about 2 million were tractor-trailers, and trucks were responsible for hauling about 70 percent of all goods transported within the United States.

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