September Capacity Tightens
More drivers hit the road coming off Labor Day weekend, bringing much-needed capacity to the market. Our prediction last week that we would experience looser capacity at the beginning of the week and tightness at the end came to fruition. More spot volume hit the market as the week progressed, putting upward pressure on rates.
Overall, this remains a carrier’s market with no sign of changing: The load-to-truck ratio (LTR) is more than 10 to 1 in all major Northeast markets. The Midwest is also holding strong in carriers’ favor. We began to see a noticeable jump in longer haul volume hitting the spot market at the end of August (see more on the spot market below); the trend continued last week, contributing to rising rates in the West.
This week will shed a lot of light on how the markets will play out through the rest of September. If longer hauls keep hitting over the road, it will start putting more pressure on spot rates and have a domino effect across major markets. While moving this freight via rail may save some money, shippers are turning to trucks to ensure timely movement and avoid congestion. We expect this week to bring a modest increase in overall rates, with more coming from the West Coast. However, the Southeast seems to be the only region with some shipper favorability.
Truck Orders Climb Ahead of 2022
Preliminary North American Class 8 truck orders rose 51% month over month in August, reaching nearly 40,000 units, which is the highest level in five months, according to data from FTR Transportation Intelligence. August orders were up 91% year over year, and Class 8 orders now total 456,000 units for the previous 12 months.
“Ordering has commenced for 2022 deliveries, but at a much more measured pace than expected,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR. “Fleets have wanted to place their 2022 orders for months. They are in desperate need of trucks presently and, with the freight market being so robust, anticipate that build slots will again be scarce next year.
“Demand for Class 8 trucks will be huge in 2022 due to growing freight markets and pent-up demand left over from 2021. Orders will be substantial from August until the end of the year. However, there could be wide fluctuations from month to month, because the OEMs are being deliberate in how they manage and slot the orders.
“The supply chain is still impacting the entire industry, and Class 8 orders are no exception. It’s difficult to know how many trucks you can produce in the first quarter when many components, and especially semiconductors, are in short supply. Once commodity costs stabilize and the supply chain gets into balance, orders will soar, and build rates will jump.”
What’s in Store for Q4 and More?
For 2021 as a whole, FTR is forecasting spot rates to be up about 27% over last year. Looking ahead, FTR expects spot market rates to ease in 2022 but still be very strong. “By the end of next year, spot rates should still be running higher than they were even at the peak of the market in 2018,” according to Heavy Duty Trucking.
Our outlook for the market has not changed. Q4 will continue to tighten. Will the usual seasonality shift be masked by the current elevated market — or what we now call the “new normal” — much like we saw during produce season? Or will the market show a more noticeable traditional impact? We just don’t know for sure yet.
During the past year, we have seen many disruptions, including congested ports of entry and new lanes, but there have been many others:
- We are seeing more drivers shift to being owner-ops, which only makes it more difficult for large carriers to seat their trucks. This could cause a more volatile freight market down the line, as more freight continues to sit in the spot sector.
- Weather disruptions during Q4 could break the market, much like the deep freeze we saw last February.
The shippers that will weather whatever natural and other storms come as we drive through Q4 are the ones working with partners that provide a toolbox of transformative solutions.
The movement of freight is changing in every mode, as shippers do their best to keep up with record demand while fighting congestion at multiple points throughout the supply chain. Shippers who think forward, use data and think outside the proverbial box on solutions, while partnering with companies such as Transfix, will come out of this ongoing freight rally in a better position and well ahead of competitors. The one huge win through this pandemic has been speeding up the digital transformation of the transportation industry.
With the uncertainty and volatility surrounding the U.S. economic recovery, shippers need a partner that can help them adapt and excel — no matter the circumstance. Shippers turn to Transfix for our leading technology and reliable carrier network. As volumes drive higher, we are here to help: Learn more about our Core Carrier program and Dynamic Lane Rates. As part of our ongoing market coverage, we’ll continue to provide breaking news, resources and insight into emerging trends and the pandemic’s impact on the transportation industry.