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ACT Research: Freight Market Rebalances as Cycle Nears Turning Point

June 22, 2023, 07:15 AM
Filed Under: Trucking

Freight volumes, rates and supply-demand balance see positive progress in May, according to the latest release of ACT Research’s For-Hire Trucking Index.

The Trucking Volume Index jumped in May to 49.4 (SA) from 37.7 in April, as destocking began to slow. For context, destocking likely peaked recently, with March container imports down 30 percent year/year, versus April’s decrease of 20 percent Y/Y and signs of further improvement in May.

Tim Denoyer, Vice President & Senior Analyst at ACT Research, said, “While demand remains soft, less destocking may be starting to add to freight available to haul. Although volumes remain in a slight contraction, this large improvement in our fleet survey suggests we’re in the later stages of the freight downturn.”

The Pricing Index continues to contract but rose 5.1 points to 38.3 in May (SA) from the near record low of 33.2 in April.

The Capacity Index ticked down by 2.6 points month/month (M/M) to 50.6 in April, still growing, albeit just. After 18 months of growth, capacity is quickly slowing, and some fleets are selling off older tractors or pausing hiring to manage capacity in the softer freight environment.

Denoyer added, “Rates are beginning to stabilize, as marginal capacity continues to exit amid brutal conditions. Fleets are freezing hiring and selling equipment to manage utilization in this soft freight environment. Slowing capacity coupled with stabilizing volumes suggest, rates are likely near bottom, and the market is near balance, for now.”

The Supply-Demand Balance showed a major rebalancing in May, improving to 48.8 (SA) from 34.6 in April.

Denoyer concluded, “The large m/m increase in volumes was the primary factor, and the decrease in capacity also added to the more balanced, but still slightly loose reading. May marked the 15 consecutive underwater point in the series, but May’s reading shows a cycle nearing a turning point.”

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