At GoShip.com, we believe in closely watching the shipping industry and staying up to date with freight transportation and shipping trends to be able to provide our customers with the best tools for their shipping needs.
According to DAT, which is is a US-based freight exchange and provider of transportation information serving North America, there are reports that 2017 was a particularly robust year in shipping, especially in the second half. Based on what we have seen in the industry during that time, and with 2018 almost ½ way through already, here are some trends to watch for in the freight transportation industry for the remainder of 2018.
It’s no secret that this year the market is battling with low truck supply and high freight demand. One of the reasons for this crunch is the ongoing shortage of drivers. This shortage is caused by older drivers continuously retiring, and very few younger drivers filling in those empty spots. Also, the job is difficult and not appealing to many – it involves working extremely long hours, driving long distances, being away from family for long periods of time, and for many, less than ideal pay. Consequently, because there are fewer drivers and fewer trucks on the road, the increase in freight has nowhere to go. This, in turn, drives up the shipping rates because of the premium placed on securing a truck.
Spot rates were on the rise for much of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 and could continue to do so throughout 2018. This trend goes hand in hand with the tightened capacity. As freight demand rises and the supply of available trucks falls, rates increase. There are typically two types of rates in the transportation industry- spot market rates and contract rates. Spot rates are those that are quoted on the spot and are typically done for freight that is ready to move. Contract rates are those that are locked in with a carrier via a contract with the shipper and are usually based on a year-long estimate of freight volume.
The likely outcome of increased truck rates will be the transition from highway transport to rail freight. Intermodal or rail is typically less expensive than truck due to the nature of the mode, and we are already seeing shippers switch to intermodal to find a way around the capacity and rate issues of the highway.
More and more frequently, we are seeing new technologies break into the freight transportation scene. For example, Uber Freight launched last spring and is an app for freight that operates similarly to Uber’s well-known ride-sharing service. Also, Amazon has an app that targets on-demand freight, which operates by matching trucking companies with shippers who have freight to move.
A different type of potential disruptor is the autonomous vehicle boom. Tesla has unveiled its electric semi-truck, which has a range of 500 miles on one charge. No longer having to pay for diesel fuel or the upkeep of maintaining a combustion engine, while having increased visibility from the streamlined cabin of this truck are all alluring factors to many drivers.
The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is causing major changes to the industry and is making drivers want to leave the transportation industry rather than adapting to the ELD. This mandate is frustrating truck drivers and causing the capacity to tighten even more. Before the mandate, truck drivers were concerned about bad weather, accidents or long detention times because of the potential to miss their next delivery. Now, with the mandate, any form of unexpected delay would put that driver over his/her hours of service mark and force them to stop for the night. This hurts the productivity and profit margins for drivers being paid by the trip, which in turn is causing many drivers to leave and contributes to the shortage of drivers in the market today.
Also, the planned US Infrastructure Reform has had some noticeable effects on the shipping and logistics industry. One of Trump’s top campaign promises was to refocus government spending on American infrastructure, and it has created a positive impact on the trucking industry, as it means improvements for highways, bridges, junctions, etc. Undoubtedly, Donald Trump has a strong commitment to infrastructure and this reform is exciting news for most industries that rely on domestic transportation, but he also made it clear that he will not increase the deficit to fund these projects. Therefore, the industry will have to pay for the improvements, either through higher fuel taxes or tolls. However, not much has been done to move forward with this reform as of now.
These rapidly changing trends may seem like a lot to remember when shipping your goods, but GoShip is here to help you stay on track!
If you have LTL shipping needs and want to make sure that you are not overpaying on your shipments, get a quote through GoShip.com today.