Growth vs. stability: Is it time to rethink your approach?


Growth is often associated with progress, but is sudden and rapid growth for motor carriers always the ticket to success?

Brian Runnels, VP of safety at Reliance Partners, a freight insurance agency, doesn’t think so.

Because of the slim margins carriers face, they must keep trucks constantly moving in order to turn profits. Operating costs, however, reached $2.25 per mile last year, the highest the American Transportation Research Institute ever recorded. So while the desire for growth is understandable — larger fleets usually have greater earning potential — scaling also means staff must work harder to ensure those trucks are constantly filled with profitable freight that arrives when it’s supposed to. Staff also need to be concerned with making truck and insurance payments for all of those vehicles and dealing with unexpected breakdowns, among other daily operational considerations.

Many businesses experienced growth as freight boomed during 2020 and 2021, attracting new entrants to the industry and feeding the need for more capacity to fulfill demand. Runnels argues that sudden expansion, though, can actually cause problems.

“When you see fleets double in size in a very short period of time, typically they haven’t grown on the inside as well as the outside, and that’s a very dangerous combination,” he said.

As staff prioritize keeping trucks filled and compliant, things like maintenance and safety can fall by the wayside, Runnels has observed.

“When your safety department is strictly reactionary, the damage is already done when a bad inspection, a crash, a complaint or equipment issues occur. You’re handling everything on the backside instead of trying to be out in front of it,” he explained.

More vehicle and driver violations found during inspections can eventually impact safety scores and a company’s safety rating. Safety ratings are publicly available, so customers, shippers, and receivers know if a trucking company’s safety standards are below par. This can affect the company’s ability to keep and attract clients.

Read more: FreightWaves