Shipping and Logistics

Job Losses and Low Demand to Slow Trucking's Recovery

Written by Sandy Williams

The trucking industry lost more than 88,000 jobs in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 6.2 percent year-over-year decline.

“Job losses in the U.S. trucking industry in April were not as deep as in the broader economy, but they were substantial nonetheless, wiping out four years of trucking employment growth in one month,” said William Cassidy, Senior Editor for Trucking at JOC, IHS Markit.

In the thirty years of BLS reporting of trucking employment data, the largest previous decline was 49,700 jobs in April 1994 during a Teamster strike and a 26,000 job loss in January 2009.

This month’s data shows two consecutive weekly increases in spot loads, indicating that demand has bottomed and a recovery is beginning to emerge as states return to business. FTR Intelligence says spot loads rose 22 percent in the week ending May 1 and 7 percent during the week of May 8.

Load postings and spot rates remained far below average, however. Total load postings were 58 percent of the five-year average for the week ending May 8 and rate per mile (excluding fuel surcharges) was down 31 cents per mile from a year ago and 40 cents below its weekly five-year average.

Flat bed load availability was at late-2016 levels and rates were down 44 cents from a year ago and 50 cents below the five-year average, said FTR.

FTR Intelligence has lowered its expectations for second-quarter freight activity, but expects improvement in the third quarter.

“We now forecast the GDP Goods Transport Sector [will] plummet nearly 45 percent” from first to second quarter, said FTR in its forecast on April 16.

“Although we expect a sharp recovery in the third quarter, the depth of the damage means that we likely will not return to the level of economic output we saw before the COVID-19 crisis until the first quarter of next year,” added FTR.

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