Freight volumes grew a modest 0.5% during the first quarter of 2023, halting a streak of quarter-over-quarter declines that begin in 2022, according to a new study by the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA). Though the portion of the economy linked to freight is expected to remain weak for the rest of 2023, growth is expected to return in 2024.
“Data from the first quarter of 2023 indicates the decline in freight volumes we saw at the end of last year has leveled off,” says TIA president and CEO Anne Reinke. “While the freight economy may not grow significantly until 2024, the total economy shows resilience, and our members continue to outperform their non-member peers in key metrics.”
From Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA):
- TIA members saw significant year-over-year declines in shipments, revenue and invoice amount per shipment during the quarter. These metrics, however, suffered in comparison to an exceptionally strong first quarter of 2022. Quarter-over-quarter drop offs were more modest.
- In terms of sector performance, truckload experienced its first quarter-over-quarter decrease in shipments in a year, though shipments for this segment tend to be weaker in the first quarter. Less-than-truckload (LTL) recorded a smaller quarter-over-quarter loss in shipment volumes than in the fourth quarter of 2022. The intermodal sector reported barely any change quarter-over-quarter, owing to low import activity and continued weakness.
- As of April, payroll employment in for-hire trucking reached an all-time high on a seasonally adjusted basis. Payroll jobs total more than 1.6 million and are nearly 93,000 jobs, or 6.1%, above the pre-pandemic month of February 2020.
- Net revocations of trucking authority reached a record 24,000-plus during the first quarter, which was only slightly higher than during the fourth quarter of 2022. That figure dwarfs the pre-pandemic record of nearly 11,300 in the fourth quarter of 2019.
- Though a large number of small carriers continue to fail, the number of new carriers authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is still high by historical standards. The number of new entrants is about 8,000-9,000 more per quarter than pre-pandemic.
- The truck freight market is experiencing a period of relatively high driver capacity. The active driver population is roughly 18% higher than it was immediately prior to the pandemic.
“Though conditions remain weakened for the freight economy, the first quarter of 2023 was relatively steady,” says Mark Christos, TIA chairman of the board and chair of the market report. “It’s going to be a tricky year, but the strength of TIA members when compared to their peers for metrics like market volume is certainly encouraging.”