Updated: Feb 4
“The freight trucking industry faced familiar challenges as we closed out 2021: a lack of available drivers, trucks, and trailers. This is increasing costs for shippers and making it more difficult for carriers to haul more freight,” said Bobby Holland, U.S. Bank vice president and director of Freight Data Solutions. “The rising cost of diesel fuel in the fourth quarter—up nearly 10 percent compared to the previous quarter—also drove up costs for those shipping goods by truck.”
And Bob Costello, American Trucking Associations (ATA) Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, wrote in the report that the lower shipment volume in the fourth quarter was partly due to anxious retailers acquiring more of their holiday products in the third quarter. The larger issue is capacity, he added, noting that ATA data shows that carriers who primarily haul contract freight operated roughly 5% fewer trucks in 2021 compared with 2020.
“In 2021, we moved about the same amount of goods via truck freight in the U.S. as we did in 2020, but it cost more than 2
5 percent more to do so,” said Costello. “The demand for trucking services continues to be high, but until driver shortages, as well as various supply chain challenges—such as those that are causing new truck and equipment shortages—are improved, capacity will be constrained.”
On a regional basis, the report found that fourth quarter shipments were mixed, with the West down 6.4%, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, the Midwest down 2.9%, the Northeast down 1.6%, the Southwest up 0.7%, and the Southeast down 1.5%. Annually, shipments were up 2.5% out West, up 2.2% in the Southwest, down 12.0% in the Midwest, down 4.7% in the Southeast, and down 12% in the Northeast.
On the spending side, it found that fourth quarter spend saw across-the-board sequential gains, with the West up 12.0, a 7.9% gain in the Southwest, a 6.7% gain in the Midwest, an 8.4% gain in the Southeast, and an 8.9% gain in the Northeast. Annually spend saw a 29.0% gain out West, with the Southwest u
p 20.4%, the Midwest up 15.8%, the Southeast up 18.7%, and the Northeast up 23.8%.
In a previous interview with LM, Bobby Holland, U.S. Bank vice president and director of Freight Data Solutions, said there continues to be increases in demand for freight shipments, which is only expected to increase as the economy recovers and retailers work to replenish their inventories.
“At the same time, the industry is facing one of the largest supply crunches in history, driven in large part by a major truck driver shortage. This shortage, along with rising fuel prices, is causing considerable spending increases for shippers,” he said.