December spot truckload freight movement up 55 percent, says TransCore

As was the case for most of 2010, annual improvements in spot market performance were prevalent. This was evidenced by data released by the TransCore North American Freight Index this week.

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As was the case for most of 2010, annual improvements in spot market performance were prevalent. This was evidenced by data released by the TransCore North American Freight Index this week.

According to TransCore data, spot truckload freight movement in the United States and Canada was up 55 percent in December 2010 compared to December 2009, with spot market freight volumes in the third and fourth quarters of the year representing the highest levels since 2005, which TransCore said was a peak year for spot market volume.

The 55 percent gain was significant, but it is lower than annual gains in previous months, including a 69 percent hike in October and 75 and 65 percent gains in August and September, respectively. November was up 72 percent year-over-year.

But while freight volumes show some modest signs of improvement, many industry stakeholders have said that would drive down annual spot market comparisons, which has occurred in recent months.

Even though annual spot market freight volumes are modestly trending down, trucking capacity remains tight, especially on the truckload side.

A freight transportation expert told LM that while 2010 levels look good on an annual basis compared to a tough 2009, the sequential trending down in spot market freight availability—and the American Trucking Associations and Cass Information Systems monthly freight indices to a certain extent—are to be expected. And while freight volumes are not rising at the level they did a year ago, the expert said volumes, instead, appear to be settling in.

What’s more, a research note from Robert W. Baird analyst Jon Langenfeld observed that modest fourth quarter industry demand growth reflected a modest fourth quarter supply-demand dynamic despite modest fourth quarter demand conditions. 

“4Q10 industry demand growth reflected a stable December and modestly better-than-seasonal November but a below-seasonal October,” wrote Langenfeld. “Notably, while capacity tightness relaxed relative to spring 2010 on more modest demand, our Baird Spot Demand-to-Supply index remained relatively balanced throughout 4Q as depicted in the chart below. This phenomenon is a result of four years of below-replacement new truck sales and carrier bankruptcies during the recent elongated freight recession beginning in 2006. As a result, a pickup in demand into spring should be accompanied by accelerating industry freight rates.”

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About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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