A large majority of truckload carriers expect freight volumes and truck rates to rise next year, according to new survey.
Optimism buoyed by manufacturing demand and pre-holiday sales appears to offset economic uncertainty. More than 60 percent of truckload carriers surveyed in November said they expect volumes to increase in 2012.
Only 2 percent expect freight levels to drop next year, trucking analysis and research firm Transport Capital Partners said.
That’s a rebound in confidence from August, when only 45 percent of the carriers surveyed by TCP expected volumes to increase over the next year. A stronger than expected fall shipping season may have improved the truckers’ outlook.
An even larger number of respondents, 70 percent, said they expect freight rates to rise over the next year, with 50 percent of those surveyed by TCP claiming their truckload rates rose 5 percent or more from September through November 2011.
Larger carriers experienced stronger rate increases in the 5 to 10 percent range, while carriers with less than $25 million in revenue saw smaller increases, with 5 percent of smaller carriers reporting rates decreased in the survey period.
Only 1 percent of the truckers reported rate hikes of 15 percent or more in that period, compared with 8 percent in the June through August survey. Nearly half the carriers in the November survey said their rates stayed flat or about the same.
The Cass Truckload Linehaul Rate Index for November showed pricing was up 8.5 percent year-over-year, but that pace of rate increases was slowing last month. TransCore Freight Solutions data showed dry van rates dropping slightly.
Carriers looking toward the New Year, however, predict rates will jump again in 2012. Only about a quarter of the carriers surveyed by TCP expected rates to remain flat next year, when rising volume could run smack into constrained capacity.
Nearly three-quarters of the carriers surveyed by TCP in August said they planned to keep their truck count flat or increase it by 5 percent at most.