(View a PDF of this article with the tables included or research the archive of previous reports.)

FOLLOWING a somewhat slow start, 2010 turned into an economic recovery year for most of the tank truck industry. Tank truck loads grew steadily through most of the year, and many carriers were hard pressed at times to keep up with demand.

By March 2010, tank truck loads were growing at a 6.5% rate, and tank truck revenue per mile was increasing by 2.8%. Despite a few stumbles, US manufacturing output rose during the year and freight volumes rose 55% over 2009 levels.

Automobile output increased across North America. US chemical production showed solid growth, including a 17% increase in exports. Petroleum shipments increased as the economy improved and more Americans hit the road.

The economic improvement is clearly evident in this year's Bulk Transporter Annual Gross Revenue Report. More than two-thirds of tank truck carries participating in this year's reported higher revenues and nearly half showed improvement in operating ratios. The improvement stood in stark contrast with the previous Annual Gross Revenue Report, in which revenues fell for three-quarters of participating carriers.

Beneficiaries of the improved economy in 2010 included most of the Top 10 tank truck carriers. All but one posted higher gross revenues for the year.

Kenan Advantage Group Inc remained in the top spot. The rest of the Top 10 included Quality Distribution Inc, Trimac Transportation Inc, Ruan Transportation Management, A&R Transport Inc, Superior Bulk Logistics Inc, Groendyke Transport Inc, Schneider National Bulk Carriers Inc, Foodliner/Quest Liner Inc, and Enterprise Transportation Co.

Combined Top 10 revenues were $3.35 billion in 2010, a strong bounce back from the plunge to $2.98 billion in 2009. Top 10 revenues in 2010 accounted for 61.4% of the total in the report.

The Top 25 carriers achieved $4.68 billion in revenues, or nearly 86% of the total represented in this report. Compared with the $4.34 billion in revenues for the Top 25 in 2009, it shows continued marketshare growth for the larger carriers.

Total 2010 revenues for all 57 carriers in this report were $5,459,195,275. In contrast, the 62 carriers in the 2009 report accounted for a combined total of $5,319,428,672.

Average revenue in 2010 was $95,775,355, up $9.97 million from the average of $85,797,236 in 2009. The average fell by $12.3 million from 2008 to 2009, which suggests the tank truck industry still have some ground to make up before it is fully recovered.

The median carrier on the list, the one with an equal number of carriers above and below it, had revenues of $45,200,000. In 2009, the median carrier revenue was $44,800,000.

Operating ratios for both 2010 and 2009 were supplied by 40 of the carriers in this report. Half showed improvement compared with the previous year. The operating ratio represents operating expenses as a percentage of revenue.

A majority of 2010 operating ratios were above 95%. Twenty-five fleets reported operating ratios between 95.0% and 99.9%, and one listed a ratio at 100%. In 2009, thirty-two carriers had operating ratios in the 95.0% and 99.9% range, and four topped 100%.

Fifteen carriers reported operating ratios below 94.9%, and three of those 15 were below 90%. In 2009, just 10 carriers had operating ratios below 94.9%

Most of the fleets participating in the 2010 report submitted data used to calculate tractor revenues. These numbers give an indication of productivity levels, and they suggest a drop in productivity in 2010 for tank truck carriers. The average for 2010 was $196,911, down from $241,797 in 2009 and $219,092 in 2008.

Eight of the Top 10 reported tractor revenues, averaging $218,216. This was down from the $267,074 average reported by the Top 10 in 2009.

Petroleum haulers continue to lead the way in fleet productivity. The best productivity (tractor revenue of $426,206) came from a Northeast petroleum carrier. The lowest tractor revenue ($104,444) was reported by a chemical hauler in the Southwest.

Average revenue per tractor for a representative sample of seven petroleum haulers was $264,598, down from the previous year's average of $287,776. The lowest tractor revenue reported by a petroleum fleet was $181,363.

Ten chemical haulers accounted for average revenue per tractor of $165,930, down from $241,593 in 2009. The high for chemical tractor revenue was $222,804.

Average tractor revenue for four liquid and dry bulk food specialists was $183,090, a hefty drop from a $212,230 average in 2009. The high for the category was $209,832, and the low was $138,017.

Among four carriers that focus on transporting dry bulk cargoes, tractor revenue averaged $204,926, down from the 2009 average of $231,901. Dry bulk fleet tractor revenues ranged from a high of $237,763 to a low of $179,874.

Many of the figured used here are from preaudited reports and may include nonbulk revenues or revenues from subsidiary tank truck carriers. In all cases, the numbers were supplied directly to Bulk Transporter. The staff greatly appreciates the cooperation of all who helped in the preparation of this report.

(View a PDF of this article with the tables included or research the archive of previous reports.)