- Trucking has not flourished in 2019.
- But the reasons for the trucker slowdown are murky and not altogether clear.
- Much of the trucking-industry "bloodbath" can be traced back to the industry's highly cyclical nature.
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Carl Fleming has been a truck driver since 1977. But, like many truck drivers, he says 2019 has been especially rough for him.
Fleming is an owner-operator, or a truck driver who owns his own truck and works on a freelance basis. He said he's made $20,000 less this year compared with last year.
"My fuel costs have not gone down, nor my insurance costs," Fleming told Business Insider. "A lot of small owner-operators have thrown in the towel so to speak or have lost everything they own."
It's not just truck drivers who are struggling. Major trucking companies have consistently missed and had to revise their earnings targets this year. (Although, on a positive note, J.B. Hunt, one of the industry's pathfinders, announced better-than-expected earnings last week. The announcement led to a rally in trucking stocks, and Cowen's Jason Seidl called it a "glimmer of hope" in an analyst note.)
But others expect the hard times to keep coming. Morgan Stanley's Ravi Shanker told investors that the bank's transportation team expected second-quarter earnings, which come out in July and early August, to be "poor." Morgan Stanley cut its estimates across the trucking sector by 4%.
"While there are some signs of hope in the data and expectations for a 2H rebound, we do not expect the damage in 1H to be undone," Shanker wrote in a note to investors.
There isn't one clean explanation for why a slowdown is hitting the $800 million trucking industry. But analysts and truck drivers pointed to a few reasons why it's on shaky ground in 2019.
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