As the transportation sector continue to work through a downcycle in freight rates and volumes, a new report finds that the trucking industry is simply rebalancing, with early signs indicating a return to pre-pandemic norms, according to an analysis by vehicle technology provider Motive.
To be sure, April data showed a sharper decline in the number of carriers nationwide compared to March, but regional and state-level data show these losses were not evenly distributed across the country, according to the “Motive Monthly Economic Report” produced by Motive, the firm previously known as KeepTruckin. As a vendor of fleet management products such as electronic logging devices (ELDs), vehicle GPS trackers, and dashcams, Motive says it has AI-powered IoT hardware installed in more than 20% of for-hire trucks in North America, giving it a representative view of the freight market.
Motive’s analysis concludes that most of those losses have occurred in states that recently showed the biggest jump in the number of carriers. In the firm’s words, “the bigger the pandemic pop, the steeper the commensurate correction.”
Specifically, Southern states like Texas and Florida, which saw the largest gains during the industry’s pandemic highs, are now seeing a similarly stark contraction. However, the fall across the overall market has not been precipitous, indicating the market may actually be moving toward more stability.
“The freight recession is continuing when compared to pandemic highs, but it’s likely more of a rebalancing given the fact that the 27% year-over-year industry growth seen in 2021 was almost quintuple the 10-year average of 5.6%,” the Motive report said. “Carrier start data is also showing resilience, with starts remaining in line with the rolling six-month average. This indicates there are still businesses seeing enough opportunity to enter the market. It’s critical to monitor Q2 to see if the recession is indeed a recession or a reversion to the mean.”
Macroeconomic trends are also helping to cool off overheated pandemic behaviors, as Motive found that the nation’s top 50 retailers by revenue saw more visits to their major distribution facilities in April, which is typical coming out of Q1. But unlike the past two years, retailers are not rushing to fill inventory, and this trend is expected to continue throughout Q2.
“This may mean that inventory purchasers have more modest expectations for the coming quarter, as consumer demand falls and supply chain health improves,” the Motive report said.
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