Freight Market Rebalances as Cycle Nears Turning Point

| June 22, 2023

ACT Research reports Rates are beginning to stabilize, as marginal capacity continues to exit amid brutal conditions

Freight volumes, rates, and supply-demand balance see positive progress in May, according to the latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index.

ACT For-Hire Trucking Index Volumes May 2023

The Trucking Volume Index jumped in May to 49.4 (SA) from 37.7 in April, as destocking began to slow. For context, destocking likely peaked recently, with March container imports down 30% y/y, versus April’s decrease of 20% y/y and signs of further improvement in May.

Tim Denoyer, Vice President & Senior Analyst at ACT Research, commented, “While demand remains soft, less destocking may be starting to add to freight available to haul. Although volumes remain in a slight contraction, this large improvement in our fleet survey suggests we’re in the later stages of the freight downturn.”

ACT For-Hire Trucking Index Freight Rates May 2023

The Pricing Index continues to contract but rose 5.1 points to 38.3 in May (SA) from the near record low of 33.2 in April.

The Capacity Index ticked down by 2.6 points m/m to 50.6 in April, still growing, albeit just. After 18 months of growth, capacity is quickly slowing, and some fleets are selling off older tractors or pausing hiring to manage capacity in the softer freight environment.

Denoyer added, “Rates are beginning to stabilize, as marginal capacity continues to exit amid brutal conditions. Fleets are freezing hiring and selling equipment to manage utilization in this soft freight environment. Slowing capacity coupled with stabilizing volumes suggest, rates are likely near bottom, and the market is near balance, for now.”

ACT For-Hire Trucking Index Supply-Demand Balance May 2023

The Supply-Demand Balance showed a major rebalancing in May, improving to 48.8 (SA) from 34.6 in April.

Denoyer concluded, “The large m/m increase in volumes was the primary factor, and the decrease in capacity also added to the more balanced, but still slightly loose reading. May marked the fifteenth consecutive underwater point in the series, but May’s reading shows a cycle nearing a turning point.”

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