Using last year as a model for projecting the current year is becoming increasingly less reliable due to the coronavirus threat to the global economy. The last two months have been relatively similar to historical patterns in terms of truckload volume, but they are also two of the more consistent months of the year. March, on the other hand, can have wild variances from year-to-year due to reasons such as end-of-quarter pressure and warmer weather hitting parts of the country. It is also not uncommon to see some of the year’s most dramatic winter weather events restricting capacity.
In addition to normal volatility, we are in the midst of a potential economic black swan event that could turn the freight market in either direction. Removing the unknown impact of the coronavirus—imports do not have a large impact on national freight volumes in March. Outside of some port markets, we are expecting a slight tightening of capacity this March. This did not occur last year, mainly due to the difference in the supply side conditions with carriers not adding capacity at the same rate. Also, trucking has already reached something of an equilibrium. Whereas this time last year, it was still cooling from a very heated 2018. We cannot ignore the coronavirus’ potential disruption entirely, and a large portion of the forecast depends on how the virus spreads throughout the United States. See the targeted segment section for deeper analysis.