North American Freight Market Insights

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Transportation Market Overview

TOP STORY: Has the truckload market turned or is this January in April?

Will we continue forecasting in a time where historical models struggle and disruptive events seem to keep coming, or has the market turned the corner? Can we have some confidence in forecasting? This is what everyone is asking.

If the truckload market turned a corner, market participants could begin to experience better route guide performance, lower spot market pricing, and easier access to capacity.

The first week of April saw ~25% more trucks posting to DAT than a year prior, while load postings were down 2–3% the last week of March. This dynamic—more capacity posted against fewer loads—makes the spot market feel less tense.

A lagging, but additionally helpful, perspective from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, is their Transportation Services Index (TSI) for February (published on April 13, 2022). The February (for-hire freight) TSI is 1.7% above pre-pandemic February 2020 (136.2). February TSI (138.5) was 2.6% below the all-time high level of 142.2 in August 2019.

Additionally, the Advance Retail Sales figures for March were released on April 14, 2022, showing updated numbers for retail trade and food services, not including automotive, numbers were up 1.1% month over month (M/M). This was better than analysts were expecting, only slightly better than the published consensus, but much better than market sentiment. Even after discounting 1% of inflation for the month of March, retail was flat M/M. Additionally, industrial production was up 0.9% M/M in March, still only 3.5% higher than pre-pandemic January 2020 levels, offering growth upside potential.

These opening comments are meant to address the concerns of a potential freight recession. Yes, growth is slowing, but key economic indicators tied to freight are performing better than many expected. Freight volumes continue to be healthy, and yes, they are slowing, but it is simply too early to call it a freight recession.

Anticipating the 2022–2023 market experience

Historical patterns have been less helpful in the past couple years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the out of pattern responses and strategies from governments, businesses, and private citizens.

Couple all these market attributes with exceptional disruptors, and it is difficult to call with clarity what the current market experience will be as we look to the balance of 2022 and into 2023.

Recent “black swan” events impacting supply chains
Consider the meaningful events that your business has been impacted by and how these were very likely not predictable:

  • Shutting down the economy due to the initial wave of COVID-19
  • Reopening of the economy
  • Robust economic stimulus packages
  • Winter storms that were materially disruptive in both 2021 and 2022
  • Evergreen ship blocking the Suez Canal disrupting global trade
  • Asian manufacturing cities and ports opening and closing as COVID-19 waves came upon them
  • Olympics in China overlapping with the Lunar New Year
  • China’s electric grid black and brown outs slowing production
  • Just-in-case versus just-in-time replenishment disrupting normal freight flows
  • U.S. port backlogs unable to keep up with a surge of imports
  • Semiconductor and labor shortages limiting production of truck, trailer, and chassis manufacturing
  • Vaccine mandates at the Canadian and U.S. border limiting capacity and initiating border crossing blockades
  • Diversification of port entry, putting more volume on U.S. East Coast ports, leading to disrupted inland transportation
  • January and February absenteeism in trucking due to COVID-19 Omicron variant, which effectively reduced active capacity
  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine disrupting the global economy, multiple industries, and even possibly further disrupting the semiconductor industry
  • Rapidly rising and sustained high diesel pricing impacting freight budgets and operating expenses of carriers
  • Labor negotiations for the U.S. West Coast ports are underway with a July deadline

Are there more disruptions coming?
It’s impossible to predict what the next significant event might be or how much it will disrupt the market. Perhaps we have been dealt all that fate has to deal the global and North American supply chains for 2022.

nast insights consumer behavior

To top it off, analysts and retailers say that shoppers are buying staples in smaller quantities. Do you have unique changes consumers are causing in your supply chains? We’d love to hear about them. Share your forecasts with your C.H. Robinson account team.

Is there more volatility to come?

It’s early in the second quarter and there is some healthy growth in truckload capacity (see the next section for market demographic insights), a possible shift in consumer behavior, continued disruption to the global supply chains from COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. You can’t help but wonder, are we through the volatile time or is there more to come?

Some are already calling a freight recession. Others are still forecasting material increases in contract truckload and less than truckload (LTL) pricing for 2022. Some even suggest the market will lose a lot of the capacity it recently gained.

In reality, how both supply and demand/volumes move in the coming months will shape the experience. Here are some ways to think of this:

Rank possibility Supply Demand Result

1

Contracts

Contracts

Very dependent on how much each move. If similar contraction, the market balance is sustained.

2

Maintains

Contracts

Easier access to capacity and less pricing pressure. Eventually supply contracts.

3

Maintains

Maintains

Reasonable access to capacity, balanced market with more predictable pricing movement.

4

Contracts

Maintains

A hypothesis in the market due to the high diesel pricing. Result would be sustained or increased tension.


These are of course only directional views of supply and demand and the rank possibility can be challenged if magnitude of change is added.

Be mindful of supply/demand and the rate of change
Typically, if capacity can’t keep up with the rate of change of demand/volume, then there is an overcorrection. Take this time to reflect on your transportation strategy, ensure resiliency, and attend to both contract/awarded freight needs and develop a spot market strategy.

The freight market is not a constant. Your strategy needs to be prepared for inaccuracies in the economic and supply forecasts.

Spot market has softened, but it remains unclear if this will continue

In summary, the truckload spot market is softening as freight volumes are seemingly settling against a large infusion of small carrier capacity.

What remains unclear is if the freight volume softening is a January in April event (COVID-19 did not give us a normal January or February) or if consumers are shifting their spending rapidly now and the market is experiencing a true shift. Only time will tell and the next month will be a time of close study.

The truckload spot market has been forecasted to be relaxing (see the C.H. Robinson pricing forecast later in this report) and contract markets are forecasted to increase in price as they try to capture some of the market increases against higher labor, fuel, equipment, and insurance costs in their annual renewal processes.

Contract forecasts from FTR and ACT range between 7.7–11% increases for 2022. If these forecasts are to be amended, that is yet to be seen.

Be careful if trying to time the market. Any significant market correction will put pressure on a strategy based on the current environment versus the long term. Connect with your C.H. Robinson team to discuss capacity strategies that will provide the best experience any market can offer.

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Full Truckload Shipping

TOP STORY: The expansion of truckload capacity

Trucking jobs returned to pre-pandemic levels

February’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offered that trucking jobs were about 2.5% greater than pre-pandemic. The primary growth area for trucking jobs is the local trucking sector, with long-haul and LTL just over pre-pandemic levels and specialized trucking like flatbed, tanker, and dry bulk still lagging pre-pandemic employment numbers.

The BLS Preliminary March numbers appear to show little change from February. This apparent ongoing struggle with trucking employment seems a bit incongruent with the growth of the for-hire truckload market in 2021.

Capturing the self-employed trucking jobs is a bit problematic and it is accepted that BLS figures miss some percent of those jobs, suggesting that trucking employment is likely even stronger than shown in these figures.

The growth of small carrier fleets

The below graphic shows the company sizes that make up U.S. for-hire truckload fleets for 2021.

fragmented truckload capacity

Here are some top line insights from this work:

  • Capacity growth continues to be concentrated in the smallest fleets
  • Within each fleet size segment shown, the distribution of companies is concentrated to the smaller sized fleets
  • The U.S. truckload market continues to fragment—with an increasing company count and tractor count in the owner-operator community
  • Registration data suggests that growth in the 2021 fleet was driven by new entrants or returning drivers versus solely migration from large to small carriers

How we develop the graphic
Using the MCMIS data from FMCSA, C.H. Robinson works with the data to discern the for-hire truckload capacity from the vast array of transportation companies in the dataset.

When studying the carrier market, one challenge is in discerning the market role of the smallest carriers. Are they serving as an owner-operator or as an independent contractor to a larger carrier?

As capacity migrates, it leaves the possibility of some tractors being included in a larger carrier count both as independent contractors and as an owner-operator. We have continually improved our methodology since 2015, but largely follow a similar process, giving confidence in the broad market trends and consider these insights directionally accurate.

  • We encourage you to engage your C.H. Robinson representative with questions about this work and insights on the market.

Market speculation: Will there be another shift in capacity?

With the lessening of tension in April, there are some forecasting material contraction of capacity due to bankruptcy. The argument is that the combination of the rapid rise of diesel pricing and the softening of tension will result in lower cost per mile in the spot market and cause undercapitalized carriers to experience negative operating ratios and file for bankruptcy.

The apparent correlation between rising diesel costs and bankruptcy
The rapid change in the price of diesel is problematic for carriers as they can’t amend pricing fast enough to offset the portion of diesel expenses (empty/repositioning, idle, and looking for parking miles) not included in fuel surcharges.

Data to prove this out is problematic, but looking at voluntary revocation of operating authority supplied by the DOT, we see that through Q3 2021, roughly 4% of revocations of operating authority were voluntary each month. Q4 brought increases of 5 and 6%.

It is likely that the current environment will cause some percent of the smallest carriers to either leave the industry or sign on to a larger carrier as an independent contractor. The first results in some loss of capacity while the latter shifts capacity.

Of note, a driver leaving the industry does not necessitate that the tractor is parked or scrapped. Especially in today’s robust used truck market, the likelihood of the tractor being sold and put into service at another carrier is very plausible (and at that, carriers still could face a loss because these new entrants, likely purchased the equipment at a premium). As such, reduction of the active carrier community does not necessarily reflect a one-to-one loss of capacity.

Please connect with your C.H. Robinson account team to discuss the market further and discern if your transportation strategy might benefit from some amendment to address today’s capacity market and long-term trends through the cycles of an ever-expanding small carrier industry.

Roadcheck 2022: an opportunity to prepare

The Department of Transportation (DOT) schedules a three-day event each year to focus on roadside safety inspections of commercial vehicles. Historically this event has been in June. In 2020 due to the pandemic, it was rescheduled to September and in 2021 it was moved forward to the first week of May. This year, the annual event is scheduled for May 17–19.

Historically, the trucking market has seen some undefined percent of truckload capacity takes some time off during this annual event, effectively reducing the active truckload capacity in the United States.

Planning insights for this year’s Roadcheck event
Using our insights on the spot market during past Roadcheck weeks and early insights from active research C.H. Robinson has sponsored at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, here is some perspective to plan for the annual event.

DAT’s load to truck ratios during Roadcheck week are shown in the visual below for the dry van spot market. The key insights are this:

  • There is a notable reduction in posted trucks to DAT for four days, showing a one-day lag after the three-day event for capacity to return
  • When the spot market is at exceptional tension levels (like 2018 and 2021 shown here against an 11-year average) the impact is substantial
  • The 11-year average shows an immediate contraction of active capacity that lasts roughly four days (Day 1 through Day +1)
dot road check

Preliminary results on current research sponsored by C.H. Robinson with MIT-CTL on route guide performance suggests Roadcheck week impacts route guide performance as well. These are only preliminary findings, final results will be available later in 2022.

  • Route guides do experience some reduction in first tender acceptance (the tender to the primary/awarded provider).
  • It is the lower volume lanes that see the greatest rejection of tenders from primary suppliers leading to coverage from back-up providers or the spot market.

Be prepared for some capacity challenges in any market during this period. Our research of spot and contract markets covers both low- and high-tension markets. The higher tension markets see many more issues than low tension, but all markets show consistent underperformance for four days.

Spot market, committed market, and capacity insights

Spot market under continued pressure

As discussed in the opening of this report, all three primary truckload segments are showing improvement in load to truck ratio (LTR) tension in the spot markets.

The charts below show six years of DAT’s LTRs. The red line represents 2022. A 3:1 LTR for dry van can be considered a reasonably balanced market, while balanced for refrigerated is closer to 6:1 and flatbed considers 20:1 balanced. The spot market is a leading indicator of the broader contract market, providing insights to market tension and direction of evolving price.

The year opened with January and early February showing the impact of reduced active capacity because of increased absenteeism from COVID-19 Omicron infections. As absenteeism has subsided, more stability has come to the active capacity market and LTRs for van and refrigerated equipment have lessened.

March brought a trend of fewer loads being posted in the spot market against reasonably consistent truck postings, resulting in lower load to truck ratios and with it, a lower tension experience.

Normally, the broader contract market would see this as indicative of price relaxation forthcoming. The current lessening of the spot market, while notable, will likely not see as severe contraction in pricing as some might expect due to the very real increases to the cost of trucking in 2021, which was around 16% and forecasted for 2022 at roughly 9%.

These increased costs come from increases in labor, new equipment, repair and maintenance, finance charges, and insurance. The floor cost of operations correlates with the market floor. As pricing approaches the cost of operations, capacity exits the market through business closures and retirement of aged assets. This in turn brings tension back to the market and pricing stability for carriers.

Note that the cost of operations forecasts are C.H. Robinson estimates, averaged with and without fuel, and are based on the ATRI annual cost of operations report. Final 2021 costs will be published by ATRI in November 2022.

Dry van LTR

The dry van LTR is currently in the range of a balanced market. Watch the economy, any resulting load volumes, and potential contraction in capacity.

Refrigerated van LTR

Like dry van, refrigerated LTR shows a similar pattern of softening to a more balanced market. However, the refrigerated market is at the beginning of produce harvest season. There is normally a slow drift upward on this LTR visual from this point forward due to the increased volume of fresh produce shipping.

Flatbed LTR

As shown below, flatbed started the year greatly elevated from historical norms with improvement starting in week 11. This lag in softening as compared to the other modes may be a result of the persistent driver shortage (as compared to pre-pandemic) in specialized transportation that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been citing. See the flatbed section of this report for more insights on the industries/products driving the flatbed experience.

The first half of 2022 is offering a shifting experience. Keep a close eye on these early forecasts due to key influencers on the economy and freight market. Inflation, consumer shifts in purchasing, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are just a few influencers with a possible impact on supply chains and the global economy.

Dry van DAT LTR by region
The 6-year aggregated view of the U.S. spot market shown above is broken down below for the dry van spot market by 3-digit ZIP code regions. This view helps demonstrate the meaningful variance across markets—some have plentiful capacity, while others struggle to keep up with demand.

The 3:1 national average has regional ranges between 1:1 to over 16:1. Most notable is the relaxation of pressure on the West Coast after months of record capacity issues. This relaxation of pressure exiting California has however made inbound routes to California problematic as carriers struggle to find loads back inland.

Mexico’s cross-border situation continues to be out of balance with the flow of goods Northbound being double to triple those moving Southbound.

Contract truckload environment

Most (75%–85%) of the U.S. for-hire truck market is moved through commitments most often managed via hierarchical route guides. What follows are some perspectives and notes on today’s contract truckload environment.

Route guide performance

Companies commonly use waterfall (or hierarchical) route guides to manage awarded freight on lanes with some level of demand pattern predictability. The following insights are derived from TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson, which offers a large portfolio of customers across diverse industries throughout the United States.

Two key metrics of route guide performance are first tender acceptance (FTA) and route guide depth (RGD). RGD refers to how far into a route guide a shipper must tender shipments before carriers accept loads, or the average number of tenders per load. FTA is a percentage of how often the awarded primary transportation provider accepts their shipment tenders.

Routing guide depth

The chart above from TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson, reflects weekly RGD regionally across the United States through the week of April 10–16, 2022.

During the week of April 10-16, 2022, the overall RGD improved to 1.45 from 2.16 a month ago. This meaningful change was driven by all distance bands and regions. The week of April 10th saw the Midwest struggle some, but the longer trend of it and the other regions has been continual improvement since the first week of March. TX lost some performance, largely associated to the Laredo cross border region, with the South East states of AL, GA and the Carolina's holding or worsening with produce season under way. The Midwest saw the most route guide degradation with SD dropping back 9%, IA losing 15%, MO down 5% and IL off 3%.

March’s FTA showed continued improvement

  • The month saw another percent improvement to 82% from February's 81% and the pandemic period low at 79% in January. For perspective, February 2021 FTA was 82%. 80–82% FTA has been the range of performance since the reopening of the economy in 2020 with the exception of December 2021 and January 2022. For some additional context:
  • Week of March 3, 2019, FTA was 89% and RGD was 1.21
  • Week of Feb 23, 2020, FTA was 90% and RGD was 1.17

It is helpful to watch both FTA and RGD metrics. While FTA has largely been consistent during the pandemic period, it is RGD that provides additional context on the contract freight market. Shippers are likely first seeing RGD numbers improving as back up carriers are more able to accept primary carrier rejections. What follows is continued improvement of FTA and sending fewer loads to back up carriers. Should the market against start to display tension due to increased load volumes or some contraction of capacity, then FTA and RGD will show some erosion.

RGD across distance bands

  • For March, all three distance bands experienced improvement in RGD as tertiary providers increasingly accepted primary provider rejections. For additional perspective we offer the first two weeks of April and pre-pandemic comparison:
  • Short haul (less than 400 miles) continues to outperform the longer distance bands since April 2020 with minimal variance just under 1.4 RGD, which is still elevated from 2019 and the first half of 2020 levels, which were in the 1.1 to 1.2 range.
  • Middle distance (400–600 miles) dropped just below 1.5 for the first time since pre-pandemic only to bounce back up the week of April 10-16 to about 1.55, which is much elevated from 2019 and the first half of 2020 levels, which were in the 1.3 to 1.4 range.
  • Long distance (over 600 miles) has the been the distance band to struggle the most since pre-pandemic but has steadily improved since the week of February 20th from about 1.85 to 1.45 the week of April 10-16. Like the other distances, it is well above 2019 and the first half of 2020 levels, which were in the 1.1 to 1.3 range.

U.S. spot market dry van truckload rate per mile forecast

The C.H. Robinson 2022 forecast has been through multiple amendments from our initial December forecast of a 3% Y/Y annualized average rate per mile increase to 9% (including fuel). With the current environment showing decreasing tension, our forecast continues evolving to reflect the ever-present market influencers.

With both the lessening of tension in the market and the elevated cost of diesel, this latest forecast is offered net of fuel. Shown below is the forecast without fuel. The end of year continues to show correction to a lower cost from the COVID-19 Omicron disruption of January and February and where the market started the year. The Y/Y annualized increase is now at 0% without/net fuel where it was 8% in our February forecast.

Note the precipitous drop in load to truck ratio starting in mid-January. The Omicron variant of COVID-19 created a meaningful amount of absenteeism in the trucking industry, effectively reducing active capacity against decent load volume demand. As absenteeism improved and capacity returned, balance was restored, and the market started to feel the growth of the owner operator capacity of 2021.

Current load to truck ratio of 3:1 is at a level that is historically seen as a balanced market. However, perspective is warranted, by drawing attention to the five-year average of 1.8 load to truck ratio. Today's market is considerably tighter than average and at the bottom of the annual cycle. It is from this point on that the compounding events of produce season and holiday imports in the latter summer bring freight volumes and sustained pressure. The open question is, will 2022 be a year of average, above, or below that five-year trend line? Watching key economic and freight indices in the coming weeks and months will be helpful in discerning how the balance of the year unfolds. Finally, the DAT spot market Van cost per mile (CPM), CPM including fuel (red) and without fuel (dark blue) demonstrate the impact of diesel freight pricing.

Forecast models will evolve due to dynamic variances

As many model inputs continue experiencing variances, expect this model to evolve as inputs vary. Additionally, C.H. Robinson will continue to apply its broad market costs and market experience to the forecast and continue to present updates on a regular cadence.

spot market forecast

Imports and inland transportation

The following insights offer some perspective on global import freight flows and the impact on the transition to North American surface transportation moves

Disruptions in China

Supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 infections in China continue as Shanghai’s three-week lockdown continues to help control the spread of infection.

Additionally, Guangzhou infection cases are increasing, while the situation is fluid, continue to monitor regularly.

These disruptions create supply chain gaps and irregularities in shipping across North American ports, inland trucking, and intermodal services.

Labor negotiations face upcoming deadline

West Coast port labor negotiations continue with a July deadline. Some shippers are considering port diversification strategies to mitigate risk.

Airport terminal statuses

Many U.S. airport operations continue to have elevated recovery times for import goods—creating long dwell events for trucking—compared to pre-pandemic conditions. However, there are fewer extreme delays as demand has softened in the first quarter of 2022 and historically challenging terminals at LAX are operating rather smoothly.

Your C.H. Robinson account team is ready to help with port and inland strategies. For additional ocean, air, and global insights, view our April Global Freight Market Insights report.

Temperature controlled shipping

Refrigerated truckload has all the same market pressures of labor and asset supply but has some interesting demand influencers worthy of note.

Upcoming floral market insights

The final floral season holiday of 2022 in the U.S. is on May 8, 2022, Mother's Day. Freight volumes to support the holiday will be peaking around the last week of April into the first week of May.

Due to weather impacts in the south delaying the start of Florida’s produce season, we expect there to be more trucks available to support this year’s Mother’s Day floral push. Although Miami is a key gateway for entry of foreign-grown flowers, many flowers will be flown to locations across the country, which will also assist in the ability to secure capacity in less saturated markets.

Produce season 2022

The U.S. produce season has begun. Anticipate a decline in pounds shipped primarily due to inflation. This stress in demand is a result of the increased costs in freight and production being passed through to buyers/retailers.

As a result, there may be fewer promotional ads in the retail space, which will also decrease the number of truckload shipments in typically strained produce markets and increase available capacity while decreasing freight rates. Anticipate less demand this year, which will in theory, require less capacity from the marketplace when compared to recent years.

Work with temperature controlled experts

Connect with our experts to learn more about how seasonal and supply imbalances affect your business and how C.H. Robinson’s unique transportation procurement and capacity solutions can help your shipping strategy in the short and long term.

Flatbed

The spot market is a good indicator of the broader flatbed market, as it is with refrigerated and dry van freight.

The past four weeks have shown some decline in the posting of flatbed loads to the spot market with similar to slightly higher truck postings to the 5-year average. These trends mean lessened tension in the flatbed spot market from the exceptional heights of early March, which showed double loads posting to the spot market compared to the 5-year average.

However, load to truck ratios are still in the mid 60’s to 1, which is multiples above the five-year averages in the 20:1 to 25:1 range. The current trend of fewer loads posted is still evolving, but could be a signal of continued supply chain issues or possibly a shift in demand with the broader economy.

Industry specific trends for flatbed
The following insights on some of the top flatbed industries show trends we are seeing at C.H. Robinson:

  • Oil and gas: Load volumes are expanding to support upstream and mid-stream operations.
  • Renewable energy: Strong performance continues in wind turbines and solar panels.
  • Retail products: Certain products, like mulch, appear to decrease in volume as consumers may be shifting discretionary spending.
  • Automotive: Volume continues to be down due to inbound supply gap issues.
  • Construction: Challenges continue with some supply chain issues, slowing constructions projects and flatbed demand.

This means high volume suppliers/distributors with steady demand are now able to shift some spot market freight to awarded volumes and pricing.

Choose skilled experts for flatbed capacity plans
Work with C.H. Robinson on capacity plans during this time to increase access to capacity, increase service, and improve costs for planned supply chain freight and spot market.

Continue to focus on being a flatbed shipper and consignee of choice by being clear and up front on product type, securement requirements, and dimensions. Solidifying loading and unloading times should also be a priority. Any ability to incorporate various trailer types into your strategy to broaden capacity will continue pay dividends in terms of service and price.

Cross-border shipping: Canada

Canada LTRs for the spot market

Load volumes have stabilized and calmed the rise of load to truck ratios. As a result, rates have stabilized. Canada’s truck market has two additional stresses near term that could exacerbate LTR’s:

  • Canada officially experiencing its sixth wave of COVID-19 restrictions, which could cause absenteeism from illness and effectively reduce the active truck capacity.
  • Produce season imports from the Southern United States are starting to put some pressure on northbound freight flows.

Introduction of legislation to cut fuel taxes

Alberta and Ontario governments are looking at offering some relief at the gasoline and diesel pumps. Ontario’s majority government has introduced legislation that aims to cut fuel taxes by 5.3 cents per liter for six months beginning July 1, 2022.

The fuel tax rate, which includes diesel, will drop to nine cents per liter, down from the current 14.3 cents.

CP rail strike
The CP rail strike was short lived. There was seemingly no material impact to the market as a result. CP shut down its rail network because of the work stoppage for just over two days.

ELD mandate enforcement delayed
Canada announced the delay of ELD mandate enforcement until 2023. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) announced the delay on Monday March 7, 2022, saying regulators and the trucking industry need more time.

Cross-border shipping: Mexico

Cross-border news and insights

Protests by Mexico’s truck drivers started on Monday April 11, 2022, and continued through Thursday April 14, 2022. With blockades at some Mexico-Texas crossings, truck traffic was completely stopped (both north and southbound) in some areas. Other crossings experienced material reductions in freight flows.

Shippers and carriers rerouted freight to New Mexico and Arizona crossings or simply waited. C.H. Robinson is watching this situation closely and to help customers understand the delays and options available. Please see our client advisory page for updates.

Trade imbalances continue
Northbound demand of loaded trailers—both crossdock and direct truckload services—exceed southbound demand by between 2:1 and 3:1 for both intra-Mexico and Laredo into the United States loads.

At this sustained level of imbalance, carriers continue repositioning empty equipment to meet demand, leading to cost increases. The LTRs for northbound loads out of Laredo had increased materially prior to the protests at the border, as a result they were at 16:1. This level of spot market imbalance requires flexibility in schedules, lead and transit times, and pricing on northbound freight. Source: DAT

Improving the intra-Mexico and cross-border driver experience

Carriers are requesting confirmed shipment details so that the Complemento Carta Porte (CCP) can be prepared by the time of the scheduled pickup time—in the past, this was not a common practice.

The request for information in advance helps carriers reduce dwell time at loading. Accordingly, some carriers are declining tenders if the shipment information is not available at the time of tender to minimize the risk of long dwell times.

Additionally, scheduling final delivery appointments is proving challenging as is securing northbound capacity, which results in Mexico trailers increasingly being used as storage in U.S. border cities due to limited warehousing space. Because empty equipment is not readily available to reload freight, this is impacting trailer capacity. Carriers continue to push to unload Mexico trailers quickly at U.S. locations.

Updates on PITA, CFDI, and Carta Porte

PITA’s completion means Mexico’s multiple customs modernization efforts are complete. By removing the human element from the process, the goal is to better automate the flow of transportation to improve data integrity and flow between systems. The government hopes these changes help diminish fraud and corruption, while ensuring the correct amount of taxes are collected.

Connect with your C.H. Robinson team about the new data field requirements and the current grace period for CCP that was extended until September 30, 2022, after which, fines will be levied for errors and omissions to the CCP requirements. Our experts are ready to actively work with on processes, questions (finance, legal, operations, capacity, technology etc.), and strategies for success.

female produce manager stocking fruit on shelf

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Intermodal Shipping

TOP STORY: Intermodal volumes continue under 2021 levels

Intermodal volumes continue under 2021 levels due to service issues from the railroads and some varied international volumes resulting from the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 shutdowns in China, according to FTR Associates. Contract intermodal pricing is expected to follow truck pricing, but it still is taking some increases to address operational costs.

Demand for intermodal containers

The U.S. West Coast has seen demand for 53ʹ containers soften in the last several weeks. In fact, rail service performance remains challenged by labor shortages and is not expected to change anytime soon. The Surface Transportation Board has called an emergency meeting this month with railroad CEOs to discuss performance.

Spot rates have become increasingly attractive, effectively drawing interest to conversion from truck service. Broadly, the transload model continues to increase. This long-term trend results in less intermodal volume as freight is transloaded from 40' ocean containers to consolidated 53' containers.

Shortage of intermodal chassis

Domestic chassis have been short in many markets during the first quarter with containers waiting weeks for a domestic chassis. That is beginning to ease as new chassis become available.

  • Contract intermodal pricing is expected to follow truck pricing, but lags as it is still taking some increases to address operational costs

Like all modes, the intermodal market has complexities, yet offers exceptional capacity and pricing opportunities for savvy and strategic shippers.

C.H. Robinson has container capacity available to meet both immediate and long-term needs. Engage your C.H. Robinson account manager for more insights and strategies to help assure capacity and minimize cost variability.

Less Than Truckload (LTL) Shipping

TOP STORY: LTL carriers can continue to choose the freight they want

 

The LTL industry will likely not experience the same relaxation in tension in the second quarter that truckload seems to be showing signs of.

Capacity is expected to trail LTL tonnage growth in 2022

A possible 1–2% increase in terminal throughput is from the investment in dock and door expansions. Key to LTL capacity is not only trucks, but the nodes/docks where freight is crossdocked or optimized. With an ACT Research forecast of 5% growth Y/Y in tonnage, available capacity challenges and pricing pressure will continue through 2022.

Embargoes and limited-service areas continue

The embargo or limited-service areas cited in our March report continue, but with fewer instances as labor is stabilizing from the COVID-19 Omicron illnesses that caused high rates of absenteeism in the first quarter. Your C.H. Robinson representative can help with the current state of embargos and their impact on LTL services.

Ongoing pricing pressures

Expect pricing pressure from the LTL carrier community to continue as they face ongoing challenges to expand terminals, tractors, and trailer capacity against stronger freight forecasts than truckload.

Fuel surcharges will also continue to be impactful to overall freight spend and some shippers are forecasting increased fuel expenses into their freight budgets.

Your C.H. Robinson representative can help develop a diverse carrier strategy to help lessen the impact of market increases and provide the best service.

Small Parcel

Parcel rates continue to rise

The popular golf teacher strategy, “aim small, miss small,” is the theme for shipping parcels in 2022. Larger package dimensions and longer distances are being upcharged by carriers. As capacity has become more available since the holidays and the labor absenteeism because of COVID-19 Omicron has lessened, many expected parcel freight costs to decrease.

In 2022 base rates have actually increased by 5.9% on average, but even more costly are the increases in fees. Specifically, oversize and additional handling fees, which increase for longer distances. Fuel surcharges are also in place against the higher fuel prices.

Keep these points in mind when packaging and shipping your goods:

  • In 2022, oversize and additional handling fees increase as the distance traveled increases
  • Fuel surcharges are calculated by a percentage of the base rates and transportation fees, which include the above new zone-based surcharges
    • Fuel surcharges have risen over 200% in the past year and close to 300% in the past 3 years. Source: UPS and FedEx

How to make the most of today’s parcel market

  • Package small: Ensure packages use the smallest footprint available. Keep dimensions and weight down. Conventional thinking is to consolidate all SKUs into one box, however, breaking a shipment into two packages may be more efficient than crossing overweight and dimension thresholds per package.
  • Ship close to home: If a business has the ability to ship from locations closest to its consignees, this will most likely prove to be favorable on parcel shipping costs. Source: parcelindustry.com
  • Pursue data analytics: Specifically focus on applications that support modeling. This will allow your business to see the potential return on investment (ROI) with exploring different shipping locations, services, and packaging guidelines.

Connect with your C.H. Robinson account manager to initiate a conversation with our parcel experts.

Government and Regulations

TOP STORY: Washington has started to pivot toward the mid-term elections

With mid-term elections increasingly drawing the attention of Washington, it is a relative quiet period for impactful activity to transportation. While supply chain and high fuel prices have been a focus of legislators and regulators, any programs rolled out to alleviate supply chain congestion and high fuel prices will have minimal impact beyond the dominant market forces described in the rest of this report.

International Roadcheck 2022

The annual event will occur May 17–19, 2022
International Roadcheck is a 72-hour high-visibility, high-volume commercial motor vehicle inspection and enforcement initiative. Commercial motor vehicle inspectors in Canada, Mexico, and the United States will conduct North American standard inspections of commercial motor vehicles and drivers at weigh and inspection stations, on roving patrols, and at temporary inspection sites.

This year’s focus: Wheel ends
Each year, CVSA focuses on a specific aspect of a roadside inspection. This year, the focus will be on wheel ends. Wheel end components support the heavy loads carried by commercial motor vehicles, maintain stability and control, and are critical for braking.

Please see the Roadcheck market behavior insights section found earlier in this report or visit CVSA’s website for more insights on the actual event.

Q1 Market Insights Live! Webinar

For additional commentary on the current state of the market, watch our most recent webinar on demand. 

Still have lingering questions? Visit our blog for more follow-up market questions and answers from our supply chain experts.

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