Unraveling the 2024 Freight Outlook: Insights from Cathy Roberson

Many in the supply chain industry hoped by this point it would find itself in a reset, restart, or rebound. But, in the second month of the year, the road ahead remains full of twists and turns that shippers and carriers should be prepared for. 

In this episode of the Transfix Take On podcast, we dive into the 2024 freight market outlook with esteemed repeat guest Cathy Roberson, supply chain writer and research analyst for the Journal of Commerce. Here are the top 5 points Roberson discussed during the podcast.

  1. Lessons from 2023: Mitigating Risks in a Volatile Market

The conversation kicks off with a reflection on 2023’s challenges, particularly for motor carriers. Roberson emphasizes the importance of risk mitigation in the ever-changing freight landscape, especially in light of the increase in carrier revocations linked to double brokering issues and fraud problems. Lessons for the year ahead include cautiousness and proactive risk management, as the Great Carrier Purge continues.

  1. Trucking Workforce Woes: Employment Figures and Market Dynamics

With Yellow’s bankruptcy exacerbating the jobs situation, the number of trucking employees has declined significantly. As of the beginning of the year, the industry is grappling with the lowest number of employees since May 2022. Roberson predicts a continued shedding of jobs or a holding pattern through the first half of the year.

  1. Volatility in Shipping Costs: Impact of Suez Canal and Red Sea Issues

Due to the incidents in the Suez Canal and Red Sea, more shippers are turning to air freight, which could potentially cause a spike in shipping costs. She highlights the potential impact on European economies, especially regarding the transportation of perishable goods. The discussion underscores the complexity of global supply chains and the need for adaptive strategies amid geopolitical uncertainties.

  1. The Biden Administration's Logistics Plan: A Comprehensive Review

With over 30 initiatives aimed at strengthening supply chain resilience, the plan includes measures such as a supply chain data and analytics summit in 2024. While acknowledging the importance of data analytics and visibility, Roberson expresses skepticism about the plan's efficacy. She advocates for more direct input from shippers and industry practitioners to address the nuanced challenges across different sectors.

  1. Labor Trends and Unionization: Shaping the Future of the Industry

With unions gaining momentum, negotiations with major companies like UPS and potential unionization at Amazon bring a new dynamic to the labor landscape. Roberson also encourages keen attention to the upcoming changes at FedEx, where FedEx Ground is set to merge with FedEx Express.

 

From labor market dynamics to geopolitical uncertainties and the impact of global incidents on shipping routes, industry stakeholders are urged to stay vigilant and adapt to the evolving landscape in what appears to be a challenging and complex year ahead. 

Listen to the full episode of the Transfix Take On on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. To follow more of Cathy’s insights, subscribe to her weekly Freight Forward newsletter with new editions out every Monday and follow her on LinkedIn