June was a good month for almost every trucking carrier and freight brokerage except those with heavy exposure to oil and gas or the automotive industry. Volumes and rates have not faded yet in July, and in our view, are unlikely to do so. Capacity continues to ratchet tighter as the industrial economy recovers (durable goods orders climbed 7.3% in June, beating expectations).After further work on how exactly trucking is inflecting in different parts of the market (i.e., which sorts of providers are seeing more spot volume, tighter capacity, higher purchased transportation costs and potentially higher contract rates), we feel that we have a more precise gauge of truckload carrier sentiment.For the time being, we believe that our current unseasonable volume and rate rally will need to extend further, giving carriers more time to gain conviction and confidence in contract rate negotiations. There are few clear narratives in the market clearly pointing to sustainably higher rates, and at the same time, there is plenty of uncertainty to go around. We do think that carriers will ultimately gain the conviction they need, because we don’t see trucking capacity loosening appreciably anytime soon. A number of market forces are conspiring to keep rates high, and another seasonal volume push in the fall will provide even more lift.
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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.