33% of Carriers Predict Freight Demand to Increase in the Next 3 – 6 Months

According to the latest Bloomberg | Truckstop survey, which polled owner-operators and small fleets, sentiment among North American carriers operating in the truckload spot market has improved over the past three months, but some concerns still linger.

“The industry is emerging from a challenging quarter, and the improved sentiment coupled with Truckstop’s rising Market Demand Index suggest rates may move higher from here,” Lee Klaskow, senior freight transportation and logistics analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said. “The direction of rates will be driven by supply-side factors as the industry remains flush with capacity.”

The Bloomberg | Truckstop 1Q24 Truckload Survey shows:

  • Demand remained under strain in Q1/24: Despite 62% of carriers reporting lower freight volume in Q1/24, 33% predict freight demand to increase in the next three to six months. Only 19% predict freight demand to decline in the same timeframe, which represents a 12-point percentage decline vs. the Q4/23 survey.
  • Encouraging signs the market may be starting to improve: The survey revealed that a majority of carriers believe better times are around the corner with Truckstop’s Market Demand Index up 9% in Q1/23, the first year-over-year gain after seven quarterly declines. Only 26% expect rates to decline over the next three to six months, six percentage points less than in the Q4/23 survey, while 28% see rates rising, which is six percentage points more than in Q4/23.
  • Carriers uncertain about their futures: 44% of respondents were unsure about their status in six months and 9% said they wanted to leave the trucking industry. 78% of respondents said higher interest rates in Q1/24 affected their businesses. Elevated rates can have a significant impact on equipment-financing expenses, with 19% citing increased costs as the main reason they’re not replacing or adding tractors. Though demand was challenging for carriers in Q1/24, with loads dropping an average of 10%, that was slightly better than the 13% decline in Q4/23.

“We’re all eagerly anticipating a more positive shift in the tide,” Kendra Tucker, chief executive officer at Truckstop, said. “Truckstop continues to be a trusted partner, committed to delivering innovative solutions to help carriers navigate this ever-evolving business landscape.”

The Bloomberg | Truckstop survey of owner-operators and small fleets provides timely channel checks into the health of the spot market. The sample size was 225, consisting of dry-van, flatbed, temperature-controlled and specialized/diversified, hot-shot and step-deck carriers. Of the respondents, 45% operate just one tractor.

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