North American Freight Market Insights

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Transportation Market Overview

TOP STORY: Supply of trailers, ocean containers, and chassis directly impacting over the road transportation

Insights on high volumes, low utilization of these crucial shared assets, and what you can do to help improve performance

This month’s report covers the contextual information you need on ocean containers and port insights to better understand the impact to truckload, intermodal, and less than truckload (LTL) transportation in North America and offers strategies to help improve performance in today’s market.

When discussing North American freight market insights, supply and demand are inevitable parts of the conversation. Typically, supply often refers to trucks, tractors, and drivers, while demand refers to volume or tons of freight.

In today’s market however, supply has more complexity than this. It’s no longer enough to focus on tractors being used for full truckloads, drayage, and LTL services. To complete the picture, you must also understand what’s currently impacting truck trailers, ocean and intermodal containers, and chassis. Data for these asset types is less than perfect, but top line statistics and trends offer a useful perspective.

Overwhelming port volumes

It is well publicized that several ports in the United States, namely Los Angeles/Long Beach, Seattle/Tacoma, and Savannah, are overwhelmed with high freight volumes. As the largest volume ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach have had dozens of vessels anchored for months while waiting to unload.

NAST market ocean ancorage

Source: Linerlytica, Aug 2021. Displaying TEU volume anchored at select U.S. ports. Southern California displayed as San Pedro Bay and showing ~200,000 TEUs on vessels on anchored ships at the time of this data capture. September brought even more vessels (~70 consistently anchored) than shown here for August. October will likely see some progress at bringing down the September levels.

Not all of this backlog can be attributed to container volume increases; in fact, it’s much more complicated.

  • 2021 end of year import volume forecast predicts greater freight volumes in the first half of the year with declining volumes in the second half of the year. This pattern is slightly above normal volumes in August.
  • 2021 export volumes are expected to fall 5-10% from 2020 according to ACT Research.
  • An imbalance in freight flows creates challenges to asset utilization. The current environment exacerbates efficient container returns to the ports and to Asia.
  • According to ACT Research, "this dichotomy, which has also pressed empty export containers up to nearly 60% today from 40-45% pre-pandemic, is a key factor in the historic surge in ocean spot rates in recent months."
  • With the steamship lines offering less IPI capacity (cargo moving via rail to final inland container yards) via Los Angeles and Long Beach in the second half of the year, local crossdock and trucking inland from California has increased in the region. This has added more demand for chassis capacity and drayage services.

Putting high port volumes into perspective
Here’s a rough estimate of the load volumes at the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports and an estimation of how it converts to truckload service.

On average, each ocean vessel carries ~8,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). While not a direct comparison, roughly 2.5 TEUs fit in a single 53ʹ trailer/container. Using these rough estimates:

  • 1 ocean vessel carries ~3,200 truckload or intermodal loads
  • 70 anchored vessels carry 224,000 truckload or intermodal loads
  • ~200,000 TEUs (this number varies) are in the terminal already, equating to an additional ~80,000 53ʹ loads

In August, the Los Angeles/Long Beach volumes were ~840,000 TEUs, which roughly converts to 336,000 truckload or intermodal loads for the month (~84,000 weekly loads). Typically, 17 container ships arrive in Los Angeles every three days on average, so resolving the backlog will take a significant amount of time.

Speeding up the port processing
Currently, U.S. ports are not 24/7 operations, but a test is in play to help speed the turn of much needed assets. Source: Supply Chain Dive.

While extended port hours may help, only a coordinated effort across logistics nodes and participants will make a larger impact. To make the most of 24/7 operations, dray carriers, crossdocks, and rail yards will also likely need to extend their hours. Ultimately, the breadth of the logistics industry needs to participate.

Chassis shortages

chassis shortage

Source: C.H. Robinson. Chicago BNSF ramp.

There are ongoing chassis shortages across the country for both international and domestic container services. In the photos above, you get a clear sense of the chassis shortages that currently exist across the country. The left photo is from 2019. It shows an active rail yard with some chassis bays empty and others full. The right photo is from September 2021 and shows there are no chassis available.

The contracting chassis pool—something that’s been ongoing since 2018—is a complicated situation between domestic and Chinese chassis manufacturers that has been impacted by manufacturing capacity and tariffs. Currently, international chassis are assigned to certain ocean fleet containers rather than being made available for use across all containers. This significantly limits optimization opportunities.

Rebuilding a chassis fleet will take time
Chassis production is 35% below where it should be for today’s market cycle. This is largely due to the 200%+ tariffs on Chinese chassis and subassemblies that have been in place since late 2020 (made official in May 2021).

The 2021 build forecast is ~30% below what’s needed to sustain the chassis fleet. Intermodal volumes will be limited by chassis capacity, likely for at least another 6-9 months. Source: ACT Research

Idle containers

Intermodal, like other modes, faces the situation of containers that are not in the right locations. This is caused by an imbalance of imports and exports, loaded containers being used as storage, and the ongoing truck and chassis shortages across the country. All these factors are limiting the effectiveness of terminals.

Intermodal containers as storage strategies
For some companies, holding inventory in containers at a port is cheaper than current warehouse costs. In other instances, it may be the only option for storage. According to WSJ citing Cushman and Wakefield PLC, "about 98% of warehouses in Southern California’s logistics-heavy Inland Empire region are fully occupied, and the entire Western U.S. has a 3.6% vacancy rate." Source: The Wall Street Journal

Intermodal container dwell times increase
Dwell time for containers at 11 major railroad depots in September averaged 9.8 days. This is up significantly from 6.7 days in May and 5.9 days in February. The dwell time for containers in Los Angeles reached almost 16 days. Source: Bloomberg and Hapag-Lloyd AG

Trapped trailers

Similar to intermodal, trapped/loaded trailers continue to be an issue for truckload as well. The practice of using trailers and containers on chassis as variable storage continues to create challenges for fully optimizing the shared fleet across modes.

These insights from carriers and an analyst explain the impact of low trailer utilization:

  • Potential capacity increase from optimization: "... capacity could increase 3% to 4% if trailers were turned efficiently ... said Derek Leathers of Werner" Source: Transport Dive
  • Trailers are used past normal retirement dates: A major LTL carrier shared they are running trailers past normal retirement dates due to capacity needs and an inability to find new trailers to replace aging ones. These often require material repairs that consume more time and keep trailers off the road longer than normal repair times.
  • Trailer orders and production remain flat: U.S. trailer orders recovered to 13,600 units. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are not entering orders for 2022 yet. Production was flat on a per-day basis. The industry is in a holding pattern until the supply chain improves. Source: FTR Oct Trucking report
  • Trailer productivity continues to diminish: Productivity of trailers continues to worsen as measured by ton miles per active trailer: This metric is expected to deteriorate further with a forecast down 4.8% from the Q2 2020 by this time next year. Source: FTR Freight Forecasting Model
    • Q3 was down 1.2% as compared to pre-pandemic levels.
    • Q3 was down 3.5% as compared to Q2 2020.

Addressing these issues and increasing capacity requires a faster rate of turning equipment and strategies to free up trapped trailers, containers, and chassis from being used as short- and long-term variable storage.

North America’s interdependent logistics

Fundamentally, the port experience is not just the port experience. It is interconnected with the entire North American logistics capacity environment. The actions of both logistics asset owners and participants in the logistics markets contributes to the market conditions—whether that’s improvement or extended challenges.

Today’s transportation marketplace has little to no elasticity. All market participants should plan for regional and super regional disruptions. Hurricane season lasts through November and early winter storms are also possible. These and other disruptions can easily displace capacity in the same way squeezing a balloon displaces the air. Transportation capacity works the same way, disrupting trade as capacity moves to where demand is and away from the disturbance.

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Full Truckload Shipping

TOP STORY: Supply is not entering the market fast enough to lessen tension

Class 8 production forecasts continue downward

Supply chain issues continue plaguing Class 8 production. The semiconductor shortage is the lead challenge to meeting orders. A backlog of orders continues to increase and the market is now seeing orders diminish. The following are some key statistics and insights to the Class 8 production environment: Sources for below are FTR and ACT Research

  • The 2021 forecast for net increase of the fleet size has been maintained at 38,000, from 38,000 in September and 50,000 in August. For 2021, a ~1,000 cut to the sales forecast was mostly offset by a lower export forecast on higher used truck prices. The 2022 forecast saw a 20,000-unit decrease.
  • Orders in July were ~50% above replacement levels and 115% above in August, continuing to demonstrate market appetite to purchase. In September, preliminary orders were 75% above replacement.
  • Lead time from order to delivery is 10 months with back orders at 187,200 Class 8 tractors. Lead times dropped in August on higher build rates.

With an estimated 20,000 Class 8 tractors partially assembled and awaiting parts, tractors can be delivered rapidly when supply chains catch up, but this is likely to be problematic into 2022. Finally, on the tractor production theme, many larger carriers report unseated trucks. Long haul trucking jobs are still lagging pre-pandemic levels by roughly 25,000 jobs. Net growth in fleets require new driver entrants to the trucking industry.

Trailer fleet insights
According to FTR, most OEMs are not entering orders for 2022 yet. The industry is in a holding pattern until supply chains improve. Trailer OEMs are unable to book Q1 orders because of rising material costs and limited production capacity due to component shortages. This makes forecasting 2022 trailer production difficult.

Parts supply chain
Many report repairs tie up trailers and tractors for extended periods. Some carriers have shared that tractors are being harvested for parts to keep others on the road and trailers are being maintained well beyond normal use.

In addition to new equipment production issues, parts to maintain existing equipment has a constrained supply chain. Tractors and trailers are spending more time in maintenance shops as they age and wait for parts that are not available as introduced in this article from Kare11 news about Allstate Peterbilt Group.

Airport experience for import volumes

In the wake of ocean transport congestion and delays, global air freight imports have risen as an alternate mode for high priority freight. Delays at U.S. airports are twofold:

  • Airlines break down cargo and prepare for transfers to truck. Historically, 6-12 hours could be expected for this to take place. Today the time required can be 2-4 days.
  • Driver wait time at airports is also much longer than the historical 2-4 hours. Today the wait is often 10-12 hours.

The above challenges have resulted in some carriers declining tenders at several U.S. airports due to experiences of overnight dwell. The worst-case scenarios involve airlines being unable to find a driver’s cargo due to terminal overcrowding and turning waiting drivers away.

Spot market, committed market, and capacity insights

Spot market under continued pressure
All three primary truckload segments continue to display unprecedented load to truck ratio (LTR) tension. The chart below shows that current truckload van tensions are most likely not able to address a super-regional or national disruption.

Be very proactive on capacity strategies, especially if there is a forecasted major hurricane or early winter storm. The market already demonstrated twice this year that it did not have the elasticity to effectively respond to major disruptions.

Refrigerated and flatbed sectors also face similar conditions:

  • Refrigerated LTR is at ~14:1. Typically, 4 or 5:1 is considered a healthy ratio.
  • Flatbed LTR is at ~58:1. Typically, 15 or 20:1 is considered a healthy ratio.
DAT dry van load to truck ration

Note: The refrigerated market map is visually similar, but the tension for each colored market has a higher average value than van, leaving a higher national average LTR of about 16:1.

The national LTR has been exceptionally high at levels between 6 and 7:1 for eight weeks, yet there is material variance with some shipping markets in the 4:1 and other markets well over 20:1 for truckload dry van.

The map below presents the regional diversity of dry van LTR from a regional perspective. (Note, the refrigerated market map is visually similar, but the tension for each colored market has a higher average value than van, leaving a higher national average LTR of about 16:1.) This visual shows the import capacity situation from ocean ports and Mexico’s cross-border locations, where LTRs are consistently between 10:1 and 20:1. Capacity is often deadheaded in from meaningful distances for these origin points. The costs of repositioning these trucks gets embedded into the rates paid.

DAT LT ration map

Note: The refrigerated market map is visually similar, but the tension for each colored market has a higher average value than van, leaving a higher national average LTR of about 16:1.

Contract truckload environment

The majority of the U.S. for-hire truck market is managed 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 C.H. Robinson’s 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 October 3-9, 2021.

The Northeast has recovered materially from the disruption caused by Hurricane Ida at the beginning of September. Both the West and Midwest regions also saw more route guide degradation as the market was disrupted from this event.

During the week of October 3-9, 2021, the overall RGD across all regions was 1.79, which presents an  improvement since the beginning of March when it was 1.93 and the spike from Hurricane Ida early in Sept. Regional RGD shows a similar performance since a month ago for the South (~1.7) and West (~1.55) regions with some improvement from ~2.05 to 1.8 over the past month for the Midwest. The Northeast is the real story from the past month as it spiked to 3.0 during the flooding of Hurricane Ida and has now settled back to about 1.8.

September's FTA was at 81% which is within the 80%-82% FTA since the reopening of the economy in 2020.

Essentially, while the first tender is accepted at the same rate, rejected shipments were slightly more likely to be rejected by the backup provider in August and again in Sept as compared to July and rejections were 3% more likely than August 2021.

For September, shipments of all distances improved post Hurricane Ida and settled back to levels more like July and August. For perspective:

  • Short haul (less than 400 miles) held relatively steady at a RGD of about 1.4 with an increase of 5% in September which is still well elevated from 2019 and H1 2020 levels in the 1.1 to 1.2 range.
  • Middle distance (400-600 miles) has been slowly creeping up and hit 2.0 in August and just 1% higher in September which is much elevated from 2019 and H1 2020 levels of 1.3 to 1.4 range.
  • Long distance (over 600 miles) lost ground, rising slightly to about 1.9 in August and gave up another 3% in September and like the other distances, is well above 2019 and H1 2020 levels of 1.1 to 1.3 range.

Voice of the carrier from C.H. Robinson
C.H. Robinson has two customer communities, shipper customers and carrier customers. What follows are insights from business reviews with our carriers each quarter that help present the voice of the carrier to our shipper customers.

  • Continued pressure on hiring and retaining drivers through increased pay, driver-friendly locations, and shorter lengths of haul
  • Tractor and trailer new replacements and parts are increasingly a challenge for many, while others park assets requiring maintenance because of the driver shortage
  • One to two year awards with negotiable pricing are being sought to help ensure long range capacity planning with a focus on dedicated services

 

C.H. Robinson's spot market dry van truckload rate per mile forecast

Our 2021 forecast continues its upward course through the end of the year amidst the pressures of supply and shipment volumes. The 2022 forecast continues to present a net 3% Y/Y average rate per mile to 2021 with year-end 2022 near the 2021 year-end rate per mile.

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.

chr van spot forecast

Temperature controlled shipping

Expect markets and products of regional produce to surge in Q4 2021. Regional pressures associated with seasonal harvest, production, and inventory stocking put additional strain on the broader truckload market. Expect increased pressure to pull dry and refrigerated capacity to support several commodities in the coming months.

  • Soup season continues
    There is cyclical demand for capacity in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and the Northeast from the annual build of inventory to support fall and winter soup ingredients. It starts with demand for refrigerated trucks hauling produce inbound for manufacturing and continues with both refrigerated and dry vans needed for outbound shipments of fresh and canned soups.
  • Fall harvest season
    Autumn continues to create high demand for refrigerated and dry van capacity for apples, cherries, and Christmas trees in the PNW. Additional fall harvest regions include the great lakes and upper Midwest for sweet corn, apples, pumpkins, and other late season vegetables. Thanksgiving turkeys are a specific protein that also moves in high volumes after the grilling season tapers off.

  • Imbalance of refrigerated trucks
    Throughout the year, 2021 has brought a unique imbalance for refrigerated trucks. With the exceptional demand and pricing for dry van freight, some refrigerated carriers are hauling dry goods to save on the fuel used in the refrigeration unit while making similar money. This effectively decreases the available refrigerated truck capacity.

    The chart below offers a national perspective of the refrigerated truck spot market through the lens of DAT’s LTR. It shows that 2021 is an exceptional year, with LTRs at levels not seen in previous years—much higher than dry van LTRs.

    Work with your C.H. Robinson account manager to discuss the state of regional markets, timing of events, route guide strategies, and how capacity and price can be aided through amended business processes.

    graph dat reefer load to truck ratio| C.H.Robinson

Flatbed

Currently the flatbed market is more stable than earlier in the year, with market pricing holding due to steady demand.

Supply chain disruptions reshaping flatbed peak seasons
For flatbed, peak season typically tails off in Q3. This year, peak hasn’t diminished, and seems to be continuing into Q4 due to delayed deliveries of construction materials. This prolonged season is keeping the spot market volume and tension somewhat inflated. Bid season seems to be experiencing a delayed start because of the current atypical market.

Flatbed expectations for Q4
Often, Q4 market disruptions are tied to hurricane season, and while disruptive, are limited to specific regions of the country. That said, higher demand coupled with Q4 holidays and weather may create a more volatile spot market.

Reports from shippers suggest the off season could be stronger than normal as inbound material inventories are planned to be rebuilt. The impact of the forthcoming infrastructure bill is not clear and will be dependent on what is approved.

DAT Flatbed Load to truck ratio

Source: DAT.com. Shown here are load to truck ratios (LTR) at a national average for flatbed. A ratio of 15 or 20:1 is generally considered a balanced market. Below that tends to suggest a plentiful supply of national capacity to over supplied. Greater than that suggests tension up to undersupplied.

Engage your C.H. Robinson account manager to discuss flatbed success strategies, such as flexible shipping windows and shipping on specific days of the week.

Cross-border shipping: Canada

The previous balance of trade crossing the border now continues to shift toward heavier demand of outbound trucks—moving from Canada to the United States—and softer demand for trucks hauling from the United States into Canada. This imbalance is increasing tender rejections and prices for outbound loads. Load Link Technologies reported a 42% month-over-month (M/M) increase in posted outbound loads and a decrease of 15% for posted inbound loads in August.

Currently, Quebec has the greatest tension for outbound equipment, followed by Ontario and Western Canada. Source: Loadlink.ca

Canada’s western ports experience similar situations to U.S. ports, with volume congestion impacting inland services. Intermodal containers from Vancouver are in a deficit position with both Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways. A limited number of rail containers are being offered at a premium rate.

Similar to U.S. port markets, warehousing is difficult to find for crossdocking ocean containers to 53ʹ truck or intermodal boxes. This increased tension for inland services is showing in both capacity and pricing for loads moving east into Canada.

Continue to work with your C.H. Robinson team on strategies for success in this market, including lead time as well as port and inland modal/capacity strategies.

Cross-border shipping: Mexico

Regulatory updates
The SAT (Mexico’s equivalent of the United States’ IRS) will delay the Complemento Carta Porte legislation until January 1, 2022. The month of December 2021 is the formal adaptation period, but many companies already started trials in an effort to allow more time to prepare and implement the required process changes. Source: SAT

Mexico’s ports continue to implement PITA, the customs technology integration project designed to clear trucks in a paperless environment. The most recent port of entry, Colombia Solidarity Trade Bridge (Puente Colombia) was activated in the system on October 2, 2021, to begin enforcing the single badge system.

World Trade Bridge will most likely be the last port of entry to integrate with the PITA system. The trade community anticipates a Q1 2022 roll out, which will require all border transfer carriers to utilize the single badge system that incorporates all customs, carriers, and trade partner information within an RFID-chip embedded in their badges.

Imbalance for cross-border trade is growing
Northbound demand for both crossdock and direct truckload services continues to exceed southbound demand by (3:1) for both intra-Mexico and Laredo into the United States. Higher costs are associated with repositioning empty capacity for the northbound loads.

Spot market for northbound exit Laredo maintains an LTR at 10:2, as such the market continues to experience capacity and pricing challenges on northbound freight. Source: DAT

C.H. Robinson recommends adding flexibility to pickup and delivery dates to increase access to capacity as this situation is persistent and is forecasted to continue through 2021.

Improving the driver experience
Carriers are increasingly declining loads within Mexico that have a history of long dwell times. Focus your attention on reducing dwell times and improving driver experiences for origins experiencing high rejection rates.

Carriers are asking shippers and third party logistics providers (3PLs) to have customs clearance documentation ready in advance to streamline the border-crossing experience and enable the return of equipment to Mexico faster.

Growing demand for refrigerated capacity
Western U.S.-Mexico borders are experiencing increased freight volumes with winter produce season staring in early October. Creating higher demand of Reefer units.

Plan a budget variance for rising fuel prices
Diesel pricing continues to rise in Mexico. Note this as a budget variance above rate per mile pressures. Source: Global Petrol Prices.

B1 Visa migration
Mexican drivers with B1 Visas continue migrating from cross-border transfer services to direct service, delivering deeper into the United States. Work with your C.H. Robinson representative to determine if a crossdock or through service is best suited for your needs.

Mexico’s truck driver shortage
The International Road Transport Union (IRU), based in Geneva, released a survey that said Mexico’s truck driver shortage could increase by 18% by the end of 2021. The Mexico driver shortage may impact rates up to 25%. CANACAR (Association for Mexico’s freight industry) indicated the driver shortage can be attributed to:

  • Lack of good training for drivers
  • Bad image of the profession
  • Difficult working conditions
  • Difficulty attracting young people and women to the profession
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Intermodal Shipping

TOP STORY: Will there be a peak season?

Intermodal volumes remain stable with some localized capacity challenges. Service volatility remains a primary reason for modal shifts away from intermodal. That said, volume is expected to remain strong for intermodal service through the second half of the year. The Intermodal market has an adequate supply of containers with ongoing investment, but effective utilization remains key to keeping up with demand.

  • Domestic 53ʹ chassis supply is constrained due to network balance and increased street time while trapped in a loaded state at consignees
  • Dray capacity has pockets of limitations that can be addressed with flexibility and planning
  • Elevated import container volumes outbound from California present challenges and are forecasted to continue
  • Service volatility, coupled with demand, may lead to additional network disruption through lane metering and capacity allocations

What to expect for intermodal peak season
The black line in the chart below shows intermodal volumes on a four-week rolling average are leveling off. Source: Gross Transportation Consulting

The industry debate about a “peak season” is that with the current intermodal environment, the rails may be challenged to address a build-up of goods in certain geographies.

NAST market report

Intermodal is an opportunity for more capacity
Overall, intermodal is open and continues to participate in the broad freight flows and migration of loads in today's market. Use it as an opportunity to increase capacity, but be sure to accept goods when available and turn trailers/containers as fast as possible to return capacity to the network.

Engage your C.H. Robinson account manager for more insights and strategies to help integrate intermodal into your supply chain, minimize peak season and dwell surcharges, and manage this current environment.

Less Than Truckload (LTL) Shipping

TOP STORY: LTL tonnage forecast is healthy

LTL and consolidation

The LTL industry continues to see strong volumes and challenges with expanding capacity. The following insights include the voice of carrier for context on today's market.

LTL carriers remain constrained, citing three factors: Source: ISM-PMI

  1. Continued elevated shipping volumes
  2. Driver/labor shortage is driving wages up materially
  3. Trailers are being held at retailers, which is eating away at capacity

Tracking trailers
Both private, super-regional LTL carrier and public, national LTL carriers report issues getting trailers back quickly. These and other carriers plan to implement trailer tracking technology starting in November to better monitor where trailers are and how long they are held.

Terminal expansions reported from three top tier carriers
While these investments don’t address today's congestion, they do confirm carrier confidence for the prolonged demand needed to support a larger footprint.

Yellow is consolidating
The company announced their multi-brand network will reduce their total number of terminals. Source: Seeking Alpha

2022 pricing forecast is increasing
FTR's forecast for 2021 vs. 2020 changed from 1.2% to 16.6% Y/Y from their September to October trucking reports as forecasted July numbers were confirmed. Shown below is the Y/Y change forecast and index value into 2022. The forecasted relaxation of pricing is pushed further into 2022 with each successive monthly report.

NAST market ltl forecast

Work with your C.H. Robinson representative to help with pricing and capacity strategies. They can leverage the market’s largest portfolio of carriers—from national to local LTL carriers—to help you succeed.

Small Parcel

Like other modes in North America, parcel service continues to see demand/volume outstripping supply. There are many things to consider when gearing up your parcel supply chain and shipping strategy for next year. Here are some initial projections for 2022:

Shipping rate increases for 2022
The four largest parcel carriers, UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS, will institute the highest rates seen since 2013.

  • Base rate increases around 5.9%, with some services increasing over 8%. Source: Logistics Management
  • Surcharges will also continue to increase, along with new surcharges instituted for 2022. Source: refundretriever

Carrier capacity
Lack of small parcel carrier capacity will continue throughout 2022. Source: Womeninretail

  • Expect shipping delays similar to 2021 to continue
  • Carriers will be less flexible/accommodating, leaving shippers with little leverage

Improve your parcel experience in 2022
Technology affords improved operations and helps offset increased staff needs

  • If you have advanced tools, utilize in-flight visibility to be proactive with your customers
  • Advanced tools can also provide predictive analytics to avoid delays before they happen
  • Arm your customer service teams with powerful tracking capabilities

Start developing and expanding your carrier network now, consider diversifying.

  • Maximize your parcel carriers’ “sweet spots,” which may include specific zones, weights, or eliminating surcharges
  • Utilize strong regional carrier options—particularly on the coasts where capacity and performance are suffering
  • Utilize technology to utilize multiple carriers efficiently

Government and Regulations

TOP STORY: More of the same

Our regulatory and legislative insights offer more of the same this month with hints of process and timeline to key Washington items:

On Oct 7, the US Senate extended the US debt limited to Dec 3rd. This resulted in a series of legislative moves that essentially have aligned the infrastructure bill, the “social infrastructure” reconciliation bill, the funding of the U.S. government and the debt ceiling all around that date.

The freight industry will have to wait until Thanksgiving or later for the final vote on the infrastructure bill previously passed in the Senate.

Also of note, the US Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai, delivered a key speech outlining the Biden administration’s strategy and views regarding the China trade war. Most summaries have concluded tariffs will remain, but the previously expired Section 301 exclusion process will restart.

Discover additional freight market resources

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Market Insights Vlog: Strategies for Shipping in Mexico

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Supply and Demand Vlog: Analysts Predict Driver Shortage will Hinder Supply Growth

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North American Freight Market Insights | C.H. Robinson
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