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Freight Forecast Outlook for COVID-19 and Lower Commodities

| March 16, 2020

Freight could be less affected than the overall economy in a service-side recession

ACT Research released the March installment of the ACT Freight Forecast, U.S. Rate and Volume OUTLOOK report covering the truckload, intermodal, LTL and last mile sectors.

Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s Vice President and Senior Analyst, said, “There’s not much freight in a basketball game, and the outlook for capacity is tighter, as COVID-19 and financial volatility will likely further lower new equipment purchasing. Freight could be less affected than the overall economy in a service-side recession, the risk of which has risen. At this point, we expect a sharp but short decline in economic activity, but the situation continues to evolve quickly. With a likely inventory restock in the second half, among several tailwinds, there is a case for recovery in freight. And with capacity coming, we think the outlook for improving truckload rates is fairly resilient to COVID-19.”

 On the data front, we highlight the first signs of the impact of COVID-19 on US freight. The most recent weekly Class 1 rail data suggests COVID-19 effects washed onto North American shores in the last week of February. In the week ending February 29 (week 9), NA Class 1 intermodal volumes fell 12% y/y, 7ppts below an already weak 2020 ytd trend of -5% through eight weeks. Predictably because of proximity to China, the impact started on the US Western railroads, BNSF and UP. With longer steaming times, we would expect the Eastern railroads to experience lower volumes shortly.

Category: Featured, General Update, News

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