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Carriers Remain Cautious Heading into 2023

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Carriers are cautious about the outlook for demand and rates over the next six months as the spot market rebalances from a surge in capacity, according to the latest Bloomberg | Truckstop survey, which polled owner-operators and small fleets.

“Spot rates are not in-line with the higher costs facing carriers, which is weighing on owner-operators’ profits,” said Lee Klaskow, senior freight transportation and logistics analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “We expect the market to continue to rebalance with rates improving as early as 2Q.”

The Bloomberg | Truckstop 4Q22 Truckload Survey shows:

  • Owner-operators still split over demand: Owner-operators remain split about where demand is heading. About 30% of respondents expect load growth to decline over the next six months.
  • Rates expectations split among bulls and bears: Sentiment is split among owner-operators about where rates are headed. About 33% of respondents expect the rates to rise in the next six months, while 32% expect them to fall. Sentiment is slightly better than in 3Q.
  • Spot truckload demand skids in 4Q: 76% of respondents noticed a drop in demand, a drop from 3Q, with about 65% saying volume growth was down from a year earlier.

While the market is still uncertain, proactively managing your business will be critical to weathering whatever 2023 brings. Owner-operators will need to be nimble to pivot in order to continue to thrive. This includes carefully controlling fuel costs, negotiating the best rates, and preparing for maintenance costs before they arise. Profitability is the goal across the board and cost-cutting measures and operational efficiencies are key to building and maintaining a successful business

“Owner-operators polled for this survey remain cautious, but spot rates are expected to show improvement as early as 2Q” said Kendra Tucker, chief executive officer, Truckstop. “Truckstop provides owner-operators with the technology and solutions they need to keep their business moving and their bottom line growing regardless of the market conditions.”

The Bloomberg | Truckstop survey of owner-operators and small fleets provides timely channel checks into the health of the spot market. The sample size was 113. It consists of dry-van, flatbed, temperature-controlled and specialized/diversified carriers. Of the respondents, 66% operate just one tractor.

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