ACT Research: US Freight Cycle Near Bottom

According to the latest release of ACT Research’s Freight Forecast, U.S. Rate and Volume Outlook report, although April likely marked the bottom of the spot rate down cycle, elevated Class 8 build rates will limit near-term upside.

“Spot rates rose in May, but strong new equipment production will slow the ascent initially. Class 8 backlogs are sufficient for a while but are starting to dwindle as order activity has declined with industry profitability,” Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst for ACT Research, said. “That spot rates have largely held onto the gains from Roadcheck [which] suggests the freight market is close to the elusive balance, but the rebalancing so far has been mainly on the labor side.”

Regarding fleet capacity, Denoyer said: “Though equipment capacity is still growing, labor capacity is tightening as some fleets shrink and others exit. Aside from the pandemic capacity shock in April 2020, we are on track for a record contraction in labor capacity this year, which is key to the bottoming process.

“Though the near-term freight volume outlook remains muted, seasonal increases in freight later this year will meet tighter capacity, pushing the cycle forward.”

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