US domestic freight flows

I just completed a 2000 mile road-trip. Truck traffic seemed strong, especially at Indianapolis (major road construction undoubtedly amplified that observation). I can confirm that Lexington KY loads and flows circling Cincinnati are impressive (lots of activity at the nearly one-year-old Amazon hub).

Demand for stuff has moderated (I agree), but it remains plenty strong. July shipment numbers are almost identical to July 2021 and 2019. In 2020 flows were still early in recovery. In July 2018 we were just past an unusually high peak. More people are now employed in trucking than ever before. The number of warehouse workers soared through this Spring and has been mostly stable since.

Diesel is still expensive, but is well-off its mid-June peak.

This Spring the freight market went through another transition: shifting consumer demand and swiftly rising fuel prices seemed to threaten capacity-shedding (more). Some trucking firms closed. I was worried. But adaptation happened (more and more and more). By early July I was telling clients that third quarter freight capacity would mostly be well-balanced between demand and supply. Half-way through, that forecast has (so far) unfolded. Below is Freightwaves’ national Outbound Tender Volume Index showing changes between the first and second weeks in August. Pretty placid.

Given fertile sources of volatility, I have no confidence regarding the fourth quarter or beyond… but for now and the near-term we are making clean, dry hay… most of the time in most places.