Volumes inch up this week, breaking weekslong flat streak

For the first week in the past many, national outbound tender volumes are showing gains and up 1.91% year-over-year, breaking the long-running flat streak. The year-over-year gains are being aided by easy comparisons to 2019 data. This should not be taken as a sign of strong demand, but rather a lack of demand at the beginning of last year.

National outbound volumes have been trending down slightly since the beginning of December 2019 — down 8% since Dec. 1. On a week-over-week basis, it feels like a broken record, but once again volumes are flat. Currently, OTVI sits at 9,622.36, 12 basis points below last week.

Less wintry weather across the Midwest and Northeast has eliminated the demand for reefer trailers for some products. Reefer volumes have tumbled nearly 10% in the past three weeks.  The effects of the coronavirus on global trade flows blur our outlook for volumes for the remainder of the first quarter. Until we have more visibility from people outside Beijing, it is difficult to properly determine what the impact will be on U.S. truckload volumes in the short term.

Four of the 15 markets FreightWaves tracks were positive on a week-over-week basis. Markets with the largest gains in OTVI.USA were Laredo, Texas (8.3%), Miami (1.9%), and Chicago (0.5%). On the downside, this week saw declines in Elizabeth, New Jersey (-7.2%), Cleveland (-5.6%) and Fresno, California (-5.5%).


Capacity appears to be stabilizing at a low level but remains loose

After peaking at 14.25% on Christmas Day, the Outbound Tender Reject Index (OTRI) has slipped to 5.76%. OTRI has now increased for two weeks in a row, but by less than 1% each week. These two weeks have been the first since after Christmas in which our proxy for capacity increased on a national level. However, the rise is marginal and shouldn’t be seen as a tightening capacity environment. Capacity is still extremely loose — OTRI is below last year’s average.


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