Freight cycle expected to bottom out sooner than later

Updated Mar 30, 2023

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, March 28, 2023:

ACT: Freight downcycle closer to end than beginning

ACT Research For-Hire Trucking Index RatesWhile the leverage pendulum on pricing remains with shippers for now, trucking is currently 12 months into the freight volume downcycle. Rate trends should begin to recover as soon as traction on volume is established, according to ACT Research.ACT ResearchFreight volumes and rates declined in February, but the freight downcycle is closer to the end than the beginning, according to the latest release of ACT Research’s For-Hire Trucking Index.

Rate trends should begin to recover as soon as traction on freight volumes is established, ACT said, and slower capacity growth this month is a hopeful sign the bottoming process is closer, as fleets begin to respond to softer market conditions.

ACT’s Trucking Volume Index was in contraction territory for the eighth month of the past 11 in February at 41.3 (seasonally adjusted) from 51.6 in January. Volumes remained soft amidst a market of mixed economic signals, ACT noted.

“The soft freight market persists as inflation continues to impact consumers’ purchasing power, and recent bank failures and job cuts make recession more likely,” said Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst at ACT Research. 

[Related: Trucking's 'bloodbath', a year later: How some owner-ops hold the line

ACT Research's  Pricing Index weakness continues, decreasing 6.3 points, to 39.3 in February from 45.6 in January. This is only the fourth time in the index’s history that index has been in the 30s.

“The cure for low prices is low prices, and we currently estimate spot rates are 16% below fleet operating costs, which should expedite this bottoming process,” Denoyer added. “Even as freight demand fundamentals will likely remain soft, seasonal increases in TL volumes as capacity slows and eventually tightens will build the bottom of the spot rate cycle in the next couple of months.”

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

ACT’s Capacity Index declined by 3.7 points month over month to 51 in February, indicating slower growth. Capacity has improved in terms of both equipment and drivers the past year, with improvements in the supply chain and as more operators have shifted to larger, well-capitalized fleets after the sharp fall in spot rates. ACT said slower capacity growth this month is a key sign the bottoming process is happening, as fleets begin to respond to softer market conditions.

After rallying in January, ACT's Supply-Demand Balance measure moved looser, falling to 40.1 in February from 47 in January, with the month-over-month declines in both volumes and capacity.

“The trucking market has been loose for a full year based on this series,” Denoyer concluded. “Though the loose environment is expected to persist in the near term, we expect less loosening from here.”

[Related: By the numbers: Migration of more owner-ops back to leasing evident in mid-year analysis]

Fuel prices fall for eighth straight week

Diesel prices continued to tumble over the last week, falling another 5.7 cents to a national average of $4.13 per gallon, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.

The weekly decrease marks the eighth consecutive week of declines during which prices have fallen 49 cents.

Prices fell in all regions across the U.S., with the most significant change being seen in the Rocky Mountain region, where per-gallon diesel was down 11.9 cents, followed by California, which saw a 9.5-cent decrease.

The nation’s cheapest fuel can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $3.88 per gallon, followed by the Midwest region at $3.97 per gallon.

The most expensive diesel is in California at $5.17 per gallon, followed by New England at $4.61 per gallon.

Prices in other regions, according to EIA, are:

  • Central Atlantic -- $4.55
  • Lower Atlantic -- $4.09
  • Rocky Mountain -- $4.23
  • West Coast less California -- $4.49

ProMiles’ numbers during the same week saw fuel prices fall by 5.8 cents to $4.27 per gallon.

According to the ProMiles Fuel Surcharge Index, the most expensive diesel can be found in California at $5.51 per gallon, and the cheapest can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $3.87 per gallon.

Michigan again alters spring weight restrictions

Michigan spring 2023 weight restrictionsMichigan has once again adjusted its spring weight restrictions to include the Upper Peninsula and areas of the state not previously covered.Michigan DOTThe Michigan Department of Transportation is again adjusting spring weight restrictions in an annual move to protect roads.

As of 6 a.m. Monday, March 27, weight restrictions are lifted on all state trunkline highways from the southern Michigan border north to and including US-10 from the intersection of M-116 in Ludington, east to US-127 in Clare County, north to M-61 in Clare County, then east on M-61 to the intersection of US-23 in Standish, including the entire thumb area.

For weight restriction information and updates, call 800-787-8960, or access this information on MDOT's website at www.Michigan.gov/Truckers, under "Restrictions and Conditions." All-season routes are designated in green and gold on the MDOT Truck Operators Map, which is available online.

Drivewyze bypass service, safety alerts added to Ezlogz ELD

Weigh station bypass and in-cab alerts provider Drivewyze is partnering with Ezlogz to provide its customers with integrated access to Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass and Drivewyze Safety+ services. 

“Ezlogz customers can now take advantage of time and operating cost savings associated with bypassing weigh stations by activating the Drivewyze PreClear app through their Ezlogz ELD,” said Frances Kilgour, VP of business development for Drivewyze.  “Ezlogz customers can also access Drivewyze Safety+, which provides drivers with real-time weather alerts, as well as in-cab safety alerts for upcoming dangerous curves, low bridges, and high speeding citation areas and more.” 

Since no transponders are required, activation of Drivewyze PreClear on the Ezlogz platform can be done in minutes, Drivewyze said. Drivewyze transmits safety scores, registration and tax compliance information to the weigh station, which then calculates the information against the bypass criteria established by its state or province.

If the carrier and vehicle pass the criteria, at one mile out the driver receives permission to bypass the site. The better the fleet’s safety score, the more bypasses typically granted. Through Drivewyze PreClear, Ezlogz customers have the ability to receive bypass opportunities at more than 880 locations in 46 states and provinces. 

[Related: The day an ELD provider and mandate protestor visited the White House together to talk brokers]

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2022 edition of Partners in Business.
Download
Partners in Business Issue Cover