The recession still has a tight grip on the trucking industry, but some truckload carriers may finally be seeing the first signs of recovery, an industry consultant says.
More and more truckload carriers are seeing the market “firming up” — if not actually improving, said Lana Batts, managing director of Transport Capital Partners.
“If you believe that GDP will start turning around come the fourth quarter, then that means tonnage will come back about six months earlier,” she said.
If that’s the case, “we should see tonnage start to firm up in April and May,” said Batts.
A number of executives she has talked with say the market is "less worse" than it was last fall or earlier this year. "They see it as firming up," she said. However, others see no improvement and for a few "there is no recession." Those are carriers that have strong niches and little debt.
Batts isn’t alone in thinking the economy may be grinding toward a bottom. FedEx Chairman, President and CEO Frederick W. Smith said as much March 19.
“We have probably hit the bottom,” he told investors in a conference call while discussing FedEx’s latest quarterly results. Smith told analysts he expects to see quarter-over-quarter improvement going forward, though business will remain weak.
Truck tonnage did perk up in January, rising 3 percent from December, according to the latest statistics from the American Trucking Associations. But ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello cautioned against reading too much into those figures.
“Just because (tonnage volume) rises every now and then doesn’t mean the economy is on the mend,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.
Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com.