Retailers and grocery stores are among companies increasingly using dedicated-fleet services as a shortage of drivers constrains U.S. trucking capacity while the economy heals.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and Werner Enterprises Inc. are among carriers benefiting from an "accelerating trend" that's helping to buoy the trucking industry, according to John Larkin, managing director in Baltimore at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Dedicated-fleet services — provided by a carrier that allocates a fleet of trucks to specific customers — are "in vogue" because shippers want to eliminate the uncertainty related with procuring vehicles, he said.

These services now are "the preferred approach to lock in capacity" for core shipments, Larkin said. Further, because customers are charged the same amount whether a truck is empty or full, they can better manage their costs in the event of a shortage by negotiating rates for "defined, predictable routes" in advance, he added.

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