Trucking, Ocean and Rail Trends

To help predict and plan for the future, we review current trucking, ocean and rail trends each month. Take a look at some of the key takeaways from the past few months:

U.S. Trucking Trends

In November 2016, The American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted trucking tonnage index, which measures the gross tonnage of freight transported by motor carriers in a given month, increased 5.7% year over year. While the truck tonnage index showed an improvement in November, experts don’t believe the current U.S. freight market will show a significant demand improvement in 2017.

Dry-van truckload rates in the spot market through December 2016 were $1.93 per mile, which was up 7.2% year over year. The increase was due to higher fuel surcharges. Diesel prices are up 13.5% year over year compared to November 2015, when prices remained flat.

Dry-Van Spot Rates Graph

Through December 2016, flatbed rates in the spot market were $1.80 per mile, which was down 1.6% year over year. The decline in flatbed rates was driven by weak industrial demand in the last quarter of 2016. Recently, there have been improvements due to higher fuel prices and easier year over year comparisons.

Flatbed Spot Rates Graph

Global Containerized Ocean Traffic

Inbound containerized ocean volumes at all U.S. ports grew 11.2% year over year in December 2016. Full year volumes for 2016 were up 3.7% year over year. The year over year growth in December is attributed to easier comps.

Ship charter lease rates remain depressed because the market is oversupplied in ocean capacity. Since 2008, capacity has grown about 40%, while demand has only grown about 20%. Capacity is expected to continue to grow in excess of demand through the early part of this year.


CSX reported volumes down 0.9% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2016, while NSC reported carloads up 3.8% year over year during the same time period. CSX continued to see weak petroleum, chemical and metal volumes during the later half of 2016. NSC benefited from higher demand of metal products in 2016.

To learn more about recent trends in the shipping industry, visit our blog.

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