The 2017 Benchmarking Survey Report paints the picture of a private fleet community that is resilient, flexible, and committed to delivering a valuable return on the corporate investment. Conducted in the first four months of this year and just released by the National Private Truck Council, the survey reflects performance achieved during calendar year 2016.

For the first time in the 12 years that NPTC has been taking the pulse of its members, the survey attracted the highest number of participants. More than 100 fleets took the time to complete the 22-page survey that contains more than 150 questions and related data points. That is more than double the number of those who participated in the first survey conducted by the Council in 2005.

The key takeaway from this year’s report shows a private fleet community that is more professionally trained and experienced, more efficient, and performing at a higher safety standard than in years past. In the face of a pervasive, industry-wide driver shortage, private fleets are demonstrating their commitment to the drivers (perhaps the element that distinguishes the private fleet from all other transportation sectors) by raising wages, expanding benefits, upgrading equipment, and improving overall working conditions. The result is driver turnover at a low percentage consistent with historic averages.

Additionally, despite national safety statistics trending in the wrong direction, private fleets continue to raise the bar on highway safety. The survey reported a DOT recordable crash rate of 0.61 crashes per million miles. According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials, this crash rate is roughly three times better than the industry average; however, the agency does not report an industry average crash rate for all motor carriers.

This significantly higher safety performance of private fleets is driven by advances in driving hiring standards; enhanced safety protocols; and an increased adoption rate of advanced safety technologies such as collision mitigation, electronic stability control, speed monitoring, in-cab cameras, lane departure warning systems, disk brakes, and automatic transmissions.

On the basis of the fundamental question of private fleet justification, survey results show the continued ability of private fleets to deliver exceptional customer service. They do this by providing a differentiated value that is often tangibly rated by customers and measured by management. They expertly manage, control and flexibly deploy capacity of their fleets at or below carrier rates. The result in the overall process is they enhance the professionalism of critical transportation services provided on behalf of their companies.

The survey shows that private fleets provided opportunities for cost reduction, revenue enhancement, capacity control, leverage against higher rates, transportation expense control, and even a competitive cost advantage. For those respondents who cited cost control as one of the primary reasons for their fleet’s existence, 75% reported the private fleet operated at a cost advantage over other transportation alternatives.

This focus on key metrics has resulted in an expansion of the private fleet business model by every measure. Shipments, volume, and value are all higher over the previous year. Private fleet professionals responding to this year’s survey remain unabashedly optimistic about the years ahead. Three out of four respondents report they expect their fleet to grow (add equipment or handle more of their company’s freight) over the next five years.

Perhaps the numbers would have been better had not private fleets experienced overcapacity and lower rates from the for-hire industry in 2016. That situation started to firm up as the year came to a close, buoyed by rising consumer confidence and expectations surrounding the push for infrastructure investment being pushed by the Trump administration, plus continued low energy prices.

The future—and the present—is bright indeed!