Freight Insights for May 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 May insights:


DOMESTIC

Capacity

  • National average price of Diesel surged to $5.61/gal as of 05/16/2022.
  • National average load-to-truck ratio dropped to 3.03 in April.
  • Rejection rates hovering above 8%. Memorial Day and International Roadcheck week potential influences.
  • Unemployment rate fell to 3.6% (pre-pandemic rate) as more workers re-entered the labor force.
  • Even though we are down in volume from the last two (2) years, we are still about 25% busier than we were pre-pandemic.

Demand

  • Spot rates are flattening nationally, and large markets are showing a slight increase — trending for an upturn.
  • Retail sales are up 0.9% in April.
  • Motor vehicle and parts manufacturing up 3.9% MoM and 17% YoY.
  • As we approach June/July, we generally see a large increase, which is expected to be in line this year.

Service/Cost

  • Diesel prices up 40% YoY. Fuel costs expected to sustain at high levels through the summer. Smaller carriers with spot exposure will have trouble with this market shift — being unable to eat the fuel cost changes. Large carriers with contracts are expected to manage the cost easily.

INTERNATIONAL

Capacity

  • Contract negotiations are underway for workers at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach.
  • As the lockdown ends in China, we are seeing factories and shipping facilities opening back up and resuming activity.

Demand

  • Import bookings from China are down 32% YoY.
  • Import growth to NY/NJ is up 8% YoY.
  • Imports to LA/LB are down, but still the dominant ports of entry.
  • Volatility is also driving importers toward sourcing products from multiple markets to avoid stock outs. Further diversifying their geographic footprint of sourcing across China, Southeast Asia, and Mexico to create better dual sourcing therefore improving costs and certainty of supply. That diversification and “dual sourcing” creates shorter lead times, lower inventories, and reduced exposure to global geopolitical friction and tariffs.
    • Shanghai will become increasingly important approaching Q3/Q4.

Service/Cost

  • Ocean carriers can expect container system inefficiencies to continue through the first half of 2023 as more medium-sized and even lower-volume ports become congested, according to Simon Heaney, senior manager at maritime consultancy Drewry.

SUMMARY

  • Truckload rates finding a floor; could be seasonal.
  • Plenty of questions around upstream activity and future availability of goods.
  • Manufacturing had a peak in terms of rolling 12 month moving average, still growth opportunities.
  • Anticipating a potentially rough second of 2022.

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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