Freight Insights for July 2022

Freight Insights for July 2022

The following insights are provided by Sunset’s Strategic Account Management team.

Trends and discussions range from seasonal manufacturing and agriculture trends that affect available capacity to general insight into outside factors affecting freight volumes.

Below is a summary of the July insights:


DOMESTIC

Capacity

  • National Average price of Diesel at $5.43/gal as of 7/18/2022.
  • Van load to truck ratio is 3.91 as of 7/17/2022. Capacity loosened up substantially this week.
  • With the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the challenged AB5 case, the future is uncertain for most owner-operators working out of CA.
  • The first electric trucks are seeing use in Montreal, Canada for local deliveries.  These trucks are planned to travel approximately 200 km per day, five (5) days per week. 
  • San Diego Startup, Hydron, has announced their plan to bring Class 8 Hydrogen-powered and autonomous trucks to production in 2024.

Demand

  • The annual inflation rate in the U.S. is 9.1% in June.
  • Spot market data indicates the shortage of U.S. trucking capacity is easing. Prices began to decline in January and have continued throughout the year.  Shortages of drivers also appear to be diminishing.
  • Spot rates across many trade lanes have decreased since the start of 2022, resuming pre-pandemic activity.  In contrast, long-term rates remain at record-high levels, leaving many shippers with contract rates above what they would be able to get on the spot market.
  • We are seeing a spot market shift closer to the pre-pandemic norms, however, this market correction is still showing higher-than-average due to increases in fuel cost.
  • The Logistics Managers’ Index registered a reading of 65 in June, a 2.1% decline from May, demonstrating that even though the market is experiencing seasonal decline, it is still in a more expansive period than it was pre-pandemic.
  • The state of Louisiana is working on details in a new experiment enabling trucks to carry two 20-foot containers in tandem to and from its ports to alleviate supply chain issues exacerbated by congestion and driver shortages.
  • Rising manufacturing employment and transportation employment are indicators of continuing second-half demand for freight services from ports to warehouses and factories. US manufacturers added 132,000 jobs in June, while trucking firms added 20,600 jobs.

Service/Cost

  • As suspected the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen voted 07/12 to authorize a nationwide rail strike if progress on a new labor contract is not made by the end of this week.  On Friday, 7/15, President Joe Biden blocked a freight railroad strike that would disrupt shipments for at least 60 days by naming a board of arbitrators to intervene in the contract dispute.
  • Rail transportation accounts for approximately 28% of domestic transportation. If rail does strike, this will greatly increase trucking demand and reduce trucking capacity.
  • Crude oil pricing per barrel dropped below $100 ($99) on 7/5 for the first time since early May and is expected to drop further through the rest of the summer.

INTERNATIONAL

Capacity

  • At this time, no agreements have been made and the current ILWU contracts expired effective 07/01.  The ILWU and PMA have continued negotiations with no intentions of implementing a “no contract – no work” principle. 
  • The ILWU released a study this month  entitled, ‘Someone Else’s Ocean’, citing real data about port automation in the hopes to save as many dockworker jobs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as possible. 
  • The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) are currently in a 60-day negotiation period with an emergency board appointed by the Biden administration.  Any prolonged rail strike could cripple the supply chain that is still slowly recovering from backlogs due to worker shortages at ports, trucking companies, and railroads.

Demand

  • The latest National Retail Federation data show U.S. container import volumes set a record in May and was up 2.7% over last year. Ports had a chance to clear up backlog and retailers brought in goods early to avoid problems with contract negotiations.
  • Spot rates across many trade lanes have decreased since the start of 2022.  In contrast, long-term rates remain at record-high levels, leaving many shippers with contract rates above what they would be able to get on the spot market. 
  • Container import volumes are projected to remain at steady and then level off in the Fall.

Service/Cost

  • Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act which will boost the authority of the FMC and increase industry transparency.  This is the first significant change to ocean shipping regulations in more than two (2) decades.
  • More containers moving rail versus truck out of ports resulting in increased congestion and longer dwell times for rail bound containers.
  • At this time, the Biden administration has not decided on whether to reduce/remove US tariffs on imports from China.  Sunset continues to monitor this situation very closely and will advise with any further updates.
  • As we head into the back half of the year, there are many global, political, and economic challenges that have the possibility to  impact demand and capacity.

Industry data is pulled and summarized weekly from key proprietors and industry experts using multiple publications and sources. Sources include, but not limited to: FreightWaves, Cass Transportation Index, DAT, Journal of Commerce (JOC), PYMNTS, NRF, Cleveland Research. The information is discussed with Sunset Managing Directors and validated prior to publication of summary data in this posting.


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