Freight shipping industry trends from the first half of 2016.

contrasting trucks

Here at Freightquote by C.H. Robinson, we take pride in the fact that we have a team of experts ready to answer any shipping-related questions customers might have. However, becoming and remaining an industry expert is reliant upon understanding what’s happening across the industry. 

For this reason, as well as educating our readers, we gather the latest freight shipping industry trends twice a year. With the first half of 2016 in the rear view mirror, here are some of the top trends and statistics impacting freight shipping.


Freight shipping industry trends: Trucking.

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index reached 139 in May. This number represents an increase from April’s 135.3 and inches the industry closer to the all-time high of 144 set back in February of 2016. The ATA’s index is based on survey responses from its membership.

“Better consumer spending in April and May certainly helped, but economic growth remains mixed and I’d expect the recent choppy pattern in tonnage to continue for the next quarter or two,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

Outside of statistics, we’d be remiss to talk about trucking trends without diving into the ELD mandate that reverberated across the industry near the start of the new year. To recap, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the required installation of electronic logging devices (ELDs) on commercial trucks by the end of 2017. 

The technology is designed to automatically record data like a truck’s driving time, as well as monitor engine hours, miles driven, location, and vehicle movement. The FMCSA expects the mandate to save 26 lives a year on average.  


Freight shipping industry trends: Shipping.

When looking at the total amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, the freight shipping industry remains strong. 

The United States Department of Transportation’s Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) revealed that the amount of freight carried increased 0.2 percent in May, representing the second consecutive month of growth. 

May’s index level was rated at 121.8, which is just 1.5 percent less than the TSI’s all-time high level of 123.7 (December 2014). 

Much like in any of today’s industries, technology is playing a large role in the advancement of freight shipping as well. 

For example, we’re now seeing the advent of organizations taking an “Uber-like” approach to shipping. These companies’ platforms are designed to link shippers with truckers nearby that have available space in their trailers. 

The technology allows truckers to fill their unoccupied space while providing shippers with a quick fix to get their goods from one place to another.

Another interesting and emerging technological trend brought to us by the first half of 2016 is the idea of “peloton” trucking. 

Peloton Technology is an industry trailblazer, offering a vehicle automation technology that electronically pairs trucks to form a platoon (riding closely behind one another). This technology is designed to reduce fuel consumption and improve aerodynamics and driver safety. 

In January, Peloton was named to Cleantech Group’s 2015 Global Cleantech 100 list


Freight shipping industry trends: Diesel prices.

Without diesel fuel, the trucking industry would struggle to exist. 2016’s diesel prices have been friendly to truckers and trucking companies to date, and according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the remainder of 2016 will be just as bright. 

The EIA expects retail diesel prices to average $2.36/gal in 2016 before jumping up to $2.71/gal in 2017.


Freight shipping industry trends: Safety.

A landmark ATA study was released in June that displayed the trucking industry’s commitment to safety. The data showed that trucking invests at least $9.5 billion in safety annually, dispersing funds to improve on-board technology and provide driver training, safety pay and regulatory compliance. 

“Since economic deregulation in 1980, we have seen marked declines in truck-involved crashes and crash rates on our highways, and in the past decade, those declines have been particularly steep,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

In terms of cargo security, there was a total of 221 thefts reported in the United States during the first quarter 2016, up 8% from Q1 2015. Despite the increase in the total number of thefts, the average loss value per incident fell 56% from the previous year. According to the data, full truckloads accounted for 83% of all theft


Final thoughts.

As we look ahead to the second half of 2016, shippers and carriers can reflect on some of these trends to be better prepared for the future of the freight shipping industry.  

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