FALLING oil prices took a significant toll on tank truck carrier revenues in 2015. Data collected for the 2015 Bulk Transporter Gross Revenue Report suggests that plummeting crude oil prices contributed to lower gross revenues for more than 80% of the fleets participating in the report.

Most significant was the impact of lower oil prices on fuel surcharges. With diesel retailing for an average of $2.63 per gallon (very comparable with gasoline) in 2015, fuel surcharge payments by shippers fell dramatically. In some cases, carriers reportedly even had to pay surcharge rebates to customers. The data in this Gross Revenue Report suggests that reduced fuel surcharge payments contributed to roughly an 8% reduction in overall gross revenues, and that may be a conservative estimate.

The plunge in crude oil prices brought a major drop in oilfield activity. Tank truck carriers serving the oilfield reported as much as a 60% drop in revenue from those operations.

Lower fuel prices made it very difficult for many carriers to obtain rate increases during 2015, which also impacted revenues. Other factors contributing to the drop in revenues included a weather-related drop in loads in the early part of the year and a slow recovery through the first half of the year. Overall truck tonnage grew by an average of just 1.2% during the last four months of the year, according to the American Trucking Associations.

View the 2015 Gross Revenue Report

Just 16.6% of the respondents in this report found opportunities to grow revenues in 2015. On upside, though, two-thirds of the fleets reported operating ratios that improved or stayed the same as the previous year.

Only one Top 10 tank truck carrier showed revenue growth in 2015. Kenan Advantage Group remained in the top spot and is still the only tank truck carrier to break through the $1 billion barrier.

The rest of the Top 10 included Quality Distribution Inc, Trimac Transportation Inc, Foodliner/Quest Liner Inc, Superior Bulk Logistics Inc, Groendyke Transport Inc, A&R Logistics Inc, Schneider National Bulk Carriers, Ruan Transportation Management, and Dupré Logistics LLC.

Combined Top 10 revenues were $4.7 billion, down from $4.9 billion reported in 2014. Top 10 revenues accounted for 68.2% of the total in this report, a slight reduction from the 2014 report.

Average revenue for 2015 was $166,233,816, down $7.5 million from the average of $173,743,123 in 2014.

The median carrier on the list, the one with an equal number of tank truck carriers above and below it, had revenues of $71.9 million. In 2014, the median carrier revenue was $70 million.

Operating ratios for both 2015 and 2014 were supplied by 15 of the carriers in this year’s report. Just 33% showed improvement over the previous year. The operating ratio represents operating expenses as a percentage of revenue.

While the sample is relatively small, it shows that roughly 66% of the 2015 operating ratios were above 95%. That is actually an improvement over the 2014 Gross Revenue Report. Ten of the carriers reporting for 2015 had ratios between 95.0% and 99.9%.

Five carriers reported operating ratios below 94.9%, one of which was below 90%. This also was an improvement over the previous report.

Once again, many of the fleets participating in the 2015 report provided data used to calculate tractor revenues. These numbers give an indication of productivity levels, and they show that carriers continue to work hard at squeezing maximum efficiency from their fleets.

The average tractor revenue for 2015 was $245,819, slightly more than the $244,000 reported in 2014. This is noteworthy considering the operating challenges fleets faced in 2015.

Seven of the Top 10 reported average tractor revenue of $308,582. This was a healthy improvement over the $269,007 average reported by the Top 10 in 2014.

A chemical hauler claimed the top spot for fleet productivity with tractor revenues of $597,697. The lowest revenue per tractor ($128,125) also came from a chemical hauler. Average tractor revenue for chemical fleets in 2015 was $255,689, which was about the same as the 2014 average.

Average tractor revenue for petroleum fleets in 2015 was $284,107, down from $375,311 in 2014. The high for petroleum haulers was $497,204, and the low was $151,164.

Food haulers averaged $216,038 for 2015 tractor revenues, a healthy increase from $187,748 the year before. The high for food haulers was $271,154 and the low was $176,806.

Dry bulk fleets posted average tractor revenues of $223,028, a decent increase over 2014 average tractor revenues of $206,872. The high for dry bulk fleets was $303,750 and the low was $197,124.

Many figures used here are from pre-audited 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.  ♦