Freight shipping trends from the second half of 2015.

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As the second half of 2015 comes to an end, shippers and carriers alike are planning for the new year. Let's take a look back to prepare for what's ahead. This helps us understand what has happened and gauge the next market patterns - similar to what we did in the first part of the year.

The third and fourth quarters provided many news stories and stats, so we've gathered what we felt were the top trends that wrapped up the year.


Freight shipping trends: Trucking.

The second half of the year witnessed substantial growths as the Department of Transportation's (DOT) freight transportation services index expanded to an all-time high, reports a Transport Topics article. The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that the index, which seasonally measures the output of services provided by for-hire transportation industries, expanded by 2.1% in August when compared to 2014.

Freight Transportation Services Index

 (Image: Transport Topics)


Q3 continued to flourish as truck tonnage increased 3.3% year-over-year in September, as noted by the American Trucking Associations - which signified growth in the freight market.

The market further expanded as the Trucking Business Conditions Index registered at 9.53 - indicating healthy freight gain conditions, as reported by a Today's Trucking article. The number reflected high demand for equipment, while orders for trailers remained aggressive, the article reported.

The sector also saw growth in employment with for-hire-trucking gaining 700 jobs during the third quarter. August was the fifth-straight month that the market had created jobs - and also the seventh time (out of eight months) in 2015, notes the article.


Freight shipping trends: Costs.

In terms of cost, the year rounded out with some record-setting numbers. The U.S. average retail diesel price in December decreased to $2.338 - the lowest it's been since June 1, 2009, reports a Transport Topics article.

Diesel wasn't the only fuel option that continued to drop in price. The industry witnessed even more groundbreaking numbers for natural gas prices and the weather. Natural gas prices slumped to a 10-year low by 6.4% in December as forecasts reached temperatures more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in parts of the eastern U.S. While only about 3% of today's new freight trucks are powered by natural gas, this number could climb closer to 20% in the next ten years, according to analysts.


Freight shipping trends: Shipping.

U.S. rail intermodal traffic expanded 1.6% in September compared with the same month the prior year, reports the Association of American Railroads. About 1.37 million intermodal trailers and containers were moved by railroads.

Freight shipments as a whole also expanded 1.7% in September. The growth in shipments was anticipated and part of the holiday increase, reports a Trucking Info article.

The year finished strong as the Cass Freight Index measured better than expected due to Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, reports a Transport Topics article.

Cass Freight Index

 (Image: Transport Topics)


Freight shipping trends: Safety.

U.S. and Canada cargo thefts fell in the third quarter, reports a cargo theft prevention and recovery services provider, CargoNet. U.S. cargo theft was down 43% from the third quarter of 2014.

In Q4, the FMCSA proposed further safety regulations with a rule that would mandate all passengers and occupants riding in property-carrying commercial motor vehicles to use seat belts, says a Transport Topics article.

The end of the year saw even more safety measures heightened when the FMCSA announced the long-awaited final electronic logging device rule, which required all interstate drivers to use such technology. The rule is an effort to enforce hours-of-service regulations, and to decrease driver fatigue, says a Transport Topics article.


Final thoughts.

While the year overall had many patterns, industry experts are anticipating trucking conditions to only improve going into the new year. As the freight shipping industry prepares, we can reflect on this past year's trends to help steer us in the right direction.


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