Trucking markets: Capacity tightness spreads

The question on every trucking carrier and freight broker’s mind: “is this surge just normal seasonality, or something more?”

Answering that question is difficult because of the number of unknown variables in the marketplace and how they interact. It’s impossible to get a precise measure of absolute capacity: the existing data speaks indirectly to overall trends rather than actual truck counts. And the short-term outlook for the U.S. economy is highly uncertain as well. 

When both supply and demand diverge meaningfully from ‘normal’ historical patterns, forecasting the third part of the equation, rates, can only be done with a fairly low degree of confidence.

We said in last Friday’s webinar that July 4th is like a singularity or event horizon that we can’t see past from our current vantage point, and that remains true this week. The holiday is a crucial break point in the market, after which volumes can soften or continue firming. Today, our best guess is that if the economic recovery continues – not necessarily at the same rapid pace, but just avoiding derailment – truckload capacity will ratchet tighter this summer and into the fall. 

SONAR’s real-time data, including volumes and tender rejections, which are released daily, are our best guides as to the direction of the markets over the next two weeks.

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