Trucking markets are breaking out and increasingly diverging from seasonal patterns. Spot rates out of California and Texas are very expensive, but Atlanta has stabilized and rates there are increasing, too.
Even Chicago, normally the loosest of large trucking markets, has tender rejection rates over 10%.
In J.B. Hunt’s Q2 earnings call, we got the first indications that shippers are feeling upward pressure on contract trucking rates – more on that below. That confirms our view that major shifts are afoot in trucking markets, which have been fundamentally destabilized by an 18-month period of capacity destruction that began in the first quarter of 2019.
We have an eye on macroeconomic data like retail sales and industrial production (and recent upward movement in flatbed tender rejections tells us that industrial production is now improving), but continue to be focused on real-time dynamics in transportation markets, where the capacity cycle moves to a different rhythm than lagging public data.
Fundamentally, if trucking remains stable at current levels through July, we expect a white-hot fall when new seasonal volume surges come into play.
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John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.