Many signs point to a nearly recovered U.S. freight economy as the numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts positive trends for 2014. Increased industrial demand combined with tightened truckload capacity has sent spot market truck rates rising. Intermodal volumes are on the rise as well, driven by accelerating volumes at West Coast ports. Container volumes in April at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are up 10 percent from a year ago.
June has been an extremely busy month for truckloads, starting with a shortage of truck drivers and an increase in industrial demand after a first quarter weather related slump. Also a number of shippers have been bringing in imports earlier than usual to avoid potential disruption if the ILWU goes on strike. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) contract expires July 1, and the union and waterfront employers began negotiating a new multi-year contract last month.
Truckload and less-than-truckload motor carriers added 1,500 jobs in May, as overall transportation and warehousing employment surged by 16,400 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trucking employment increased 1.8 percent year-over-year in March, 3.3 percent in April, and 1.6 percent in May, climbing 13.5 percent from its low point in March 2010.
Transportation and warehousing employment rose 2.8 percent year-over-year in May. Over the past 12 months, the sector, which includes all types of carriers, added an average of 9,000 jobs a month.
According to the Cass Freight Index, shipments in May were up 3.6 percent year-over-year and freight spending increased 11.2 percent – a sign shipping rates were substantially higher than a year ago. U.S. shippers surveyed expect freight volumes to also rise 3.6 percent in 2014, with business kicking into higher gear as the fall peak shipping season approaches.