Key Transportation Themes For 2017

From trucking to ocean freight, transportation industry trends are ever-changing. Monitoring current transportation trends helps us predict and prepare for the industry’s future.

U.S. Trucking

The U.S. truck tonnage index measures the gross tonnage of freight transported by motor carriers for a given month. It is used by analysts to help determine the state of the economy. In February 2017, the American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted truck tonnage index was down 2.8% year over year after being up 2.6% year over year in January 2017. Pending government regulations and an improvement in underlying demand are tightening the truckload market.

Dry-van spot market rates through April 2017 were $1.71 per mile, which is up 8.4% year over year. The higher rates compared to last year are likely driven by higher fuel surcharges.

Dry-van spot rates graph

Flatbed spot market rates through late April 2017 were $1.98 per mile, which is up 8.8% year over year. The improvement is likely driven by improved industrial market conditions and higher fuel surcharges.

Flatbed spot rates graph

Global Containerized Ocean Traffic

Through April 2017, inbound containerized ocean volumes at all U.S. ports grew 5.8% year over year. The increase is likely due to the strengthening U.S. dollar. Despite recent increases in ocean traffic, the overall ocean rate environment remains at historically depressed levels with oversupplied ocean capacity.

With available capacity and muted underlying demand, rates will likely increase moderately in 2017.


CSX reported second quarter year-to-date volumes are up 2.5% year over year. NSC reported the second quarter year-to-date carloads are up 5.7% year-over-year. CSX saw improved coal, auto, crushed stone, sand and gravel volumes. NSC benefited from higher demand in metal and grain products and continued intermodal market share gains.

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