ACT Research: US Freight Market Bouncing Along the Cycle Bottom

ACT Research Co.
3 min readJul 13, 2023

According to the latest release of the Freight Forecast, U.S. Rate and Volume OUTLOOK report, driver capacity models suggest the record declines in freight rates should be pushing out more jobs, generating the kind of creative destruction needed to set up the next cycle, while tremors in the LTL market could press the industry rebalancing process forward.

a graph showing DOT operating authorities granted, reinstated, and revoked data from January 2006 through May 2023
DOT Operating Authorities

“While there may be capacity reduction in LTL soon, fleets are focused on retention despite record rate reductions, resulting in a gradual rebalancing,” shared Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s Vice President and Senior Analyst. “The preliminary BLS data set, which we think gets closest to drivers, added 2.3k jobs in May, defying gravity for now. Some of this probably came from the owner-operator community, where net revocations of DOT operating authorities continue apace. We estimate another 12,400 total revocations of operating authority and 2,950 net revocations in May, bringing the total contraction in the industry since last October to over 15k fleets.”

a graph showing trucking employment, long-distance drivers m/m and y/y change data with number of jobs from January 2010 through May 2023
Trucking Employment — Long-Distance Drivers

Capacity rebalancing is well under way, albeit slower than expected, and demand is poised to gradually recover from the soft levels of the past five or six quarters, so the fundamentals for a recovery are in place.

“The spot market is continuing to rebalance with net revocations still at record rates. Even as the overall market is still on the loose side, the pendulum has started to swing,” Denoyer concluded. “The trajectory of spot rates has changed in the past couple of months, and we think demand fundamentals are likely to improve from here as we pass the worst of the destock. So, more freight market dynamics are in store down the road.”

ACT Research: Freight Forecast

The monthly 58-page ACT Freight Forecast report provides analysis and forecasts for a broad range of U.S. freight measures, including the Cass Freight Index, Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, and DAT spot and contract rates by trailer type. The service provides monthly, quarterly, and annual predictions for the TL, LTL, and intermodal markets over a two- to three-year time horizon, including capacity, volumes, and rates. The Freight Forecast provides unmatched detail on the freight rate outlook, helping companies across the supply chain plan with greater visibility and less uncertainty.

ACT Research is recognized as the leading publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies. ACT Research is a contributor to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators and a member of the Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Panel. ACT Research executives have received peer recognition, including election to the Board of Directors of the National Association for Business Economics, appointment as Consulting Economist to the National Private Truck Council, and the Lawrence R. Klein Award for Blue Chip Economic Indicators’ Most Accurate Economic Forecast over a four-year period. ACT Research senior staff members have earned accolades including Chicago Federal Reserve Automotive Outlook Symposium Best Overall Forecast, Wall Street Journal Top Economic Outlook, and USA Today Top 10 Economic Forecasters. More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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ACT Research Co.

ACT Research is the leader in commercial vehicle industry data, market analysis, and forecasting services for North America.