2018 Outlook: Rates up, capacity tight—time to get smarter

As we have since 2005, we charge into the New Year with our annual “Rate Outlook” cover story and corresponding Webcast where we round up the top analysts in each mode—trucking, air, ocean, rail/intermodal, parcel—to offer the most comprehensive snapshot available of what shippers can expect in terms of freight rates and capacity.

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The 2018 edition marks the 8th year that executive editor Patrick Burnson has been our master of ceremonies for both of these offerings. Yet again, Burnson has neatly summarized our panel’s forecasts and will moderate a more detailed discussion with these keen minds in our “2018 Rate Outlook” Webcast on Thursday, Jan. 25, in what is—by far—our best-attended webcast of the year.

So, what can shippers expect to face this year? “The over-arching theme is pretty straightforward,” says Burnson. “The steadily expanding global and domestic economies will be pushing rates up across every mode, while capacity will become even more constrained. It’s as simple as that.”

And according to Burnson’s report, the underlying advice from our analysts is just as simple: Rates aren’t coming down any time soon and capacity isn’t going to magically appear. So, shippers need to get smarter about how they’re managing their current carrier relationships; how they’re optimizing routes and capacity; and they need to start putting data to work to plan in advance of any predictable disruptions—be it seasonable peaks or inclement weather.

“The bottom line is that you can no longer drag your feet in making the digital transformation to get more productivity out of your freight transportation,” Burnson adds.

What’s reassuring to any reluctant shipper is that most of the tools you need to meet today’s new challenges already exist and can be put to work almost immediately. For example, if you’re not yet up and running on a TMS, there are now many low-cost, Cloud-based options you can access at this very moment.

Contributing technology editor Bridget McCrea does a terrific job of rounding up the current collection of on-demand TMS solutions available (page 32) from both established vendors and start-ups to match your annual transportation spend, capacity needs and investment level.

“Small- to mid-sized shippers were the fastest adopters over 2017 and that’s hardly surprising,” says McCrea. “The software community has responded quickly to the current freight environment, and these new Cloud solutions are not only easy to implement and relevant to today’s needs, but are cheaper than ever.”

Is this approaching working? According to recent Gartner research, vendors are seeing thousands of new users signing up and sticking around. “And because these new shippers are introducing their own carriers into these networks, they also represent new levels of transactional volume,” adds McCrea. “In turn, they’re quickly saving money and making efficient use of available capacity that they didn’t know existed.”

I’m not one for making resolutions, but I suggest two quick things to get your New Year started off right. First, read our “2018 Rate Outlook” and attend the Webcast on Jan. 25. You’ll also be able to submit questions to the top-notch collection of analysts in real time and get straight talk on the challenging rate and capacity environment that awaits us in 2018.

Then give the “State of TMS” piece a close read and dig into new low-cost solutions. By finally making the TMS leap, your operation just may benefit faster than you imagined—especially on the cost and capacity front.

These simple steps can help to kick start your digital 


About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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