Truck freight rates withstanding COVID better than general economy

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ACT Research reported last week in its Commercial Vehicle Dealer Digest that freight markets continue to be less impacted by the pandemic than the economy at large, and that a vaccine is seen as the key to unlocking a more broad-based recovery, as the simplest human interactions will no longer have to be weighed and justified.

“Even as the economy struggles to regain its footing post-COVID and pre-vaccine, freight markets have been somewhat less impacted,” says Steve Tam, ACT Research vice president.

“Most freight is related to society’s most basic needs: food, shelter, clothes, transportation,” he says. “A positive for freight, in the current environment, is that much of the discretionary spending that was ‘experience’ focused, like travel, attending events, and dining in restaurants, has been replaced by goods-based purchases that generate a greater amount of freight per dollar.”

Tam says this is creating a parked capacity issue that is weighing on the equipment market, “but even with that, a case can be made for a steady, if modest, Class 8 market rebound from here.”

He adds, “Based on continued increases in Classes 5-7 build, the OEMs appear to be betting on business and consumer resilience, while trailer forecasts are improving at the margin with accelerated trends in e-commerce boosting LTL demand and a new generation of home cooking driving some gains in multi-temp refrigerated vans.”

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