Freight Insights for June 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 June insights:


DOMESTIC

Capacity

  • National Average price of Diesel at $5.79/gal as of 6/27/2022
  • Van load to truck ratio is 3.74 as of 6/26/2022, a decrease from May’s national average of 4.39.
  • IBEW (Electrical Union for Canadian National Railway) imposed a strike as of 11AM on 6/18 after failed negotiations. Rail operations are expected to continue with the CN’s operational contingency plan.
  • San Diego Startup, Hydron, has announced their plan to bring Class 8 Hydrogen-powered and autonomous trucks to production in 2024.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that for three (3) of the last four (4) months, the truck transportation category added double-digit jobs.
  • The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), who represent more than 57,000 rail union members, announced they will be holding a strike vote soon. They have been without a contracted raise for three (3) years.

Demand

  • Rejection rates fell below 8% for the first time in two (2) years. Will probably increase leading into the 4th before resuming decline.
  • Carrier volumes resuming somewhat of a seasonal pattern – no sign of a pre-July 4th run-up yet.
  • The manufacturing industry is easing, but growth is still noticeable. This slower rate of growth should keep flatbed capacity tight compared to reefer and dry van through the coming months.
  • US retailers have too much of the wrong inventory.

Service/Cost

  • Large-scale carriers who impose fuel surcharges based on retail diesel can manage costs more effectively than with daily spot negotiation.  Small carriers are exposed.
  • Contract rates for van and reefer remain elevated. Spot market rates and volumes show a decline since May.
  • Fuel and inflation are putting pressure on shipping rates. Inflation is accelerating at its fastest pace since 1981. On 6/10, data showed the annual inflation rate hit 8.6% in May.

INTERNATIONAL

Capacity

  • After six (6) weeks of closed-door talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the contract for 22,000 West Coast dockworkers will expire this week without a new agreement in place. However, the ILWU declared it had no intention of preparing for a strike’ in a joint statement with PMA two (2) weeks ago.
  • The $1.1B expansion of the Houston Ship Channel is formally underway as of 6/1/2022. This will allow the ship channel to accommodate an additional 1,400 vessels per year and could generate up to $134B more annually in economic impact once completed.

Demand

  • The latest ocean container bookings data reveals that despite the strong levels of inbound cargo during the first five months of 2022, import demand is dropping.
  • Beginning to see ocean equipment and space more readily available due to higher than anticipated inventory in US retailers.

Service/Cost

  • Average maritime shipping order lead time has dropped from 11 to 9 days from since May 20th.
  • Spot rates across many trade lanes have decreased since the start of 2022.  In contrast, long-term rates remain at record-high levels, leaving some shippers with contract rates above what they would be able to get on the spot market. 
  • President 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.
  • Container lines continue blank sailings at the world’s busiest port and at Ningbo, presenting challenges for US importers ahead of a peak season.
  • As inflation continues, the National Retail Federation wrote to President Biden urging a repeal of China tariffs that are estimated to have cost the average American family $1,200 in 2020.

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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