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- March 6, 2014 -


Supply Chain Graphic of the Week: 2013 US Carrier Operating Performance by Mode


Rail Carriers Simply Far more Profitable than Truckload and LTL, as Old Dominion Continues to Impress


By SCDigest Editorial Staff



We just finished up this week our Q4, 2013 review of truckload, rail and LTL carriers results and trends for quarter and all of 2013 (see Lackluster Q4 Ends Decent 2013 for US Truckload Carriers, Rail Carriers See Generally Strong Results for Q4, Full 2013, and LTL Carrier Profitability Continues to Improve in Q4, Full 2013.)

We take that occasion to once again present some interesting comparisons on operating metrics across each of these three modes for full year 2013 results, as shown in the graphic below.


Full Year 2013 US Operating Metrics by Mode
  Truckload Sector Rail Sector LTL Sector
Average Net Income as a Percent of Sales 6.90% 17.90% 3.20%
Best Net Income as a Percent of Sales 12.10% 20.00% 8.80%
Heartland Express Union Pacific Old Dominion
Average Operating Ratio 89.20% 68.50% 94.70%
Best Operating Ratio 80.70% 66.10% 85.50%
Heartland Express Union Pacific Old Dominion
Source: SCDigest Analysis


As can be seen, rail carriers as a group are simply far more profitable than truckload or LTL carriers. The average operating ratio, or operating expenses divided by operating revenue, a key metric in the transportation sector, for the rail carriers is an astounding 21 percentage points better than for truckload carriers and 26 percentage points better than the beleaguered LTL sector (though things in LTL generally got a bit better in 2013).


In LTL, however, one has to be impressed with on-going numbers posted by Old Dominion, which continues to far outperform the rest of the market, and which came in with an OR about four percentage points better than the truckload sector average.


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