4 Out of 5 Predictions Come True in 2013

We are more than halfway through the year, and I am gratified to see that most of my predictions for 2013 are coming true so far — both about the trucking industry and about the economy in general.

I have access to some amazing data resources, derived from activity on DAT RateView and DAT Load Boards, and so do our customers. As an analyst, I sometimes feel like a kid in a candy store. DAT’s enormous pool of transactional data helps me to identify emerging economic trends weeks or months before the same trends are reported by government sources or even the American Trucking Associations (ATA.)

Here are my top five predictions for trucking in 2013, from a blog post I wrote in January:

 1. Fuel prices will decline by 10¢ per gallon, for at least part of the year, but they will remain high relative to carrier revenue. As the fuel price — and surcharge — declines, the line haul portion of the rates will increase to compensate, so the total rate paid to the truck should remain stable to 2% higher over the course of the year.

Fuel prices rose 2¢ in Q1 and dropped 16¢ in Q2, so my prediction was partially correct. However, the line haul rates increased significantly only for reefers so far this year, not for vans or flatbeds.
 2. Rates will be atypically high in Q2, but the increases will not be sustained throughout the year. A Q2 spike is normal on the spot market, but this year it should be exaggerated due to increased demand for all trailer types.Rates peaked in Q2 at a higher level than I’ve seen before. Spot market rates rose first in late May and early June, then flattened out, rising again in early July. Contract rates responded with a significant increase in June.
 3. Capacity should be adequate, with some short-term, localized shortages. I predict that economic growth in 2013 will be tepid, at best, so any capacity shortfalls will be seasonal.Capacity is holding up so far, despite changes in Hours of Service.

4. Truck freight tonnage will increase by 2.0% and spot market freight availability will grow 5.0%. Last year we saw a 3.4% increase in tonnage, according to the ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index (not seasonally adjusted.) In 2013, expect flat or negative growth in Q1, followed by a strong Q2 and a rebound in the second half. Spot market freight availability rose 3% in 2012. I predict that 2013 will look more like 2011, with 5% growth for the year.I was right that growth in tonnage would be slower in Q1 (3.5%) than Q2 (5.4%) but total growth is higher than expected. Spot market load volume beat expectations in Q1 ( 13%) but came up short in Q2 (-18%) so freight availability dipped 5.8% for the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2012.
 5. Consolidation among freight brokers and 3PLs will affect individuals and companies, but there won’t be a big impact on the overall market in 2013. The $75,000 bond requirement kicks in at mid-year, but enforcement is likely to lag.The deadline for the bond was delayed until October 1, and enforcement will begin no sooner than November 1. There is no discernible effect yet.

Do you agree with my assessments, above? What are your predictions for the second half of 2013?

For lane-specific benchmarking and forecasting data on freight rates, consult DAT RateView. For a weekly report on spot market freight trends, read DAT Trendlines.