Economy Watch

A stronger U.S. economy is filling trailers and containers faster than transportation companies can provide them, driving up transportation costs and intermodal and trucking rates, speakers said Thursday at the JOC Inland Distribution Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

A summer of strong freight demand drove revenue up 8 percent at Werner Enterprises, which won "sustainable" rate increases from shippers and raised driver pay.

Containerized ocean imports to the U.S. surged 19.3 percent year-over-year in September, while containerized ocean exports from the U.S. slumped 13.0 percent.
U.S. imports of ocean containers reached a record high in September, as retailers expect a robust holiday season, but exports continued to decline from soft global demand, making 2014 so far the worst year for container exports in the past four years.

U.S. spot market truck rates were stable last week, and while freight volume dropped from the previous week, demand and pricing are still robust, DAT Solutions said.

Truck capacity is tightening along the U.S.-Mexican border, forcing cross-border shippers to become more innovative, says Sonney Jones, a former shipper and now director of sales in Mexico for Transplace.

Growth expectations for the Asian middle class are staggering, but so is the scale of supply chain upgrades that will be needed to meet demand.

After declining for two weeks, the DAT Solutions national average spot market rates for dry van and flatbed truckloads moved up in the first days of October, propelled by higher freight demand.

Shipper spending rose faster than shipment volume in September, according to the Cass Freight Index, as the economy cooled a degree but U.S. freight rates remained elevated and surface transportation capacity tight amid the inland peak shipping season.

Growth rate figures from the World Trade Organization appear to be an underestimation of growth in container volumes, and as a result, SeaIntel Maritime Analysis still expects global container demand growth to be 4 percent to 6 percent in 2014, despite downward revisions to WTO forecasts.

shipments in warehouse
U.S. shippers expect volume growth through their supply chains over the coming year to be less than previously forecast, but they are ready to fork over far more money to ship freight as rates for nearly all modes rise.