U.S. Xpress Enterprises expects a surge of freight from the West Coast, as shipments delayed by the strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach hit the road.
That freight will flow from the port through distribution centers and intermodal channels into tractor-trailers bound to DCs and stores throughout the U.S.
“We’re going to see heavy demand coming out of Southern California in the next couple of weeks,” said John White, executive vice president of sales and marketing at the $1.6 billion company.
“Most of that freight has been queuing up” as container ships wait to be unloaded, contributing to depressed freight demand in the past week, said White.
The end of the strike could benefit truckload carriers. Shippers whose freight has been delayed may choose expedited truckload over intermodal to get goods to stores quickly.
Truck freight demand was “muted” post-Thanksgiving, White said, partly because of the port strike and a shift in shipping seasons, he said.
“Spring is the new fall,” he said. “Since the recession, we’re seeing bigger pushes in the spring than we are in the fall, when we used to see a big retail push.”
The fall peak in the past three years “is not like the historical fall season many of us have grown up with in the business,” White said. “It’s changed quite a bit.”
Currently, demand is slow but steady at U.S. Xpress, the fifth-largest U.S. truckload carrier and second-largest privately owned truckload carrier by revenue.
“We’re fairly at an equilibrium in terms of available trucks and orders,” White said in an interview. “We’re looking at fairly muted growth next year.”