Truckload demand is stronger than the general economy, with TransCore Freight Solution’s spot market index climbing 47 percent from a year ago in August.
Spot market freight demand even increased 4.5 percent from July to August. Over the past decade, freight volume dropped 2.9 percent on average from July to August.
Truckload carriers also are reporting steady demand. Swift Transportation this week said it expects freight volumes to be up 4 percent year-over-year in the third quarter.
“Jerry (Moyes) and I have visited over 50 customers in the last couple of months and the majority are positive on a strong holiday season,” said Richard Stocking, Swift's president and chief operating officer.
Stocking said many customers are concerned about future capacity. “It is amazing how fast capacity tightens when things get busy.”
The nation’s largest truckload carrier cut more than 3,000 trucks from its fleet in recent years, “the size of a top 10 carrier,” Stocking said in a conference call.
At the end of the second quarter, Swift operated about 15,200 trucks, he said. The company recently signed a major dedicated carriage contract with Wal-Mart.
U.S. Xpress Enterprises, the fourth-largest truckload carrier, also says freight demand is strong, though not as strong as it was in the second quarter.
“We’re seeing automotive rebound, and production is up,” said John White, president of U.S. Xpress Inc., the truckload arm of U.S. Xpress Enterprises.
The division operates about 5,200 tractor-trailers, and “I don’t have a lot of trucks sitting,” White said in an interview. “I don’t see any signs of a freight recession.”
That’s partly because shipper inventories are at historic lows and getting lower, White said, which keeps more inventory in motion in his tractor-trailers.
U.S. Xpress is still turning down about 300 loads a day, partly because of tight capacity and partly because the shipments aren’t “strategically profitable.” In the second quarter, the Chattanooga, Tenn., company was turning down 600 or 700 loads a day, White said.
“It’s a little less hectic than it was then,” he said.