Trucking capacity on the rebound from ELD mandate dip

September 17, 2018 - Trucking shipments ticked down again in August since spiking in May, while still posting 6% year-over-year growth according to the Cass Freight Index. 

Expenditures in August, measured as total spending on freight for the month, grew 0.6% from July and 16.7% over August 2017.

"The first eight months of 2018 have clearly signaled that barring a negative 'shock event,' 2018 will be an extraordinarily strong year for transportation and the economy," according to the Cass report.

As has been the case for all of 2018, demand for trucks is still exceeding supply, and the Cass report indicates this imbalance is pushing up rates.

"August’s 16.7% increase (in expenditures) clearly signals that capacity is tight, demand is strong, and shippers are willing to pay up for services to get goods picked up and delivered in modes throughout the transportation industry," Cass wrote in its August 2018 report. 

Though trucking capacity has seemingly been maxed out all year, Cass is seeing some signs that it has room to grow in the near term. The report posits that technology will help increase "asset utilization" in the long-run.

"We are seeing more signs that ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices) initially hurt the capacity/utilization of truckers (particularly small truckers), but many of the truckers most adversely affected are now beginning to get some of the loss in utilization back," said the Cass report. Many segments are bouncing back, with reefer and dry van markets rebounding the most, while the flatbed segment is still struggling. 

Though it may not rise to the level of "shock event," hurricane season does usually have a significant effect on the trucking industry, putting positive pressure on shipments. Despite the temporary stall that Hurricane Harvey put on trucking, for example, the rebound more than made up for it, causing August 2017 shipments to exceed all previous years before it except 2014.  

Hurricane season has arrived a bit late in 2018 with Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, the first significant storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. this year. Flooding and damage due to Florence shut down two North Carolina ports for several days.

Source: Supply Chain Dive