Driver Shortage Worsens as Freight Market Conditions Improve: Reports

Truck driver scarcity has reached a three-year high, according to ACT Research’s For-Hire Trucking Index for February.

“As fleets often like to be gearing up for springtime volume growth in February, the tightness in the driver market feels acute. For the third straight month, this was the tightest reading in the three-year history of this index,” said Tim Denoyer, vice-president and senior analyst.

“The latest stimulus is yet another factor on a long list of driver constraints keeping the truckload market tight. Demographics and the FMCSA drug and alcohol clearinghouse are also factors inhibiting driver re-engagement, even in response to record spot rates and rising driver pay. Significant additions to capacity this year are unlikely.”

Meanwhile, the stars are aligning for a boost in the freight market as COVID-related restrictions ease in parts of Canada and the US and some business begin to awaken, reports Today’s Trucking.

Canadian spot market load volumes are surging, with February hitting a single-day level not seen since 2018 and March on pace to reach the strongest levels in three years.

Loadlink Technologies reports February load volumes strengthened in the second half of the month. Average daily volumes for the month were up 19% in February.

Loadklink attributes the strengthening to loosening Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in parts of Ontario and Quebec. Domestic loads were up 20%.

Based on early March volumes, Loadlink is predicting March numbers will set a new monthly high not seen since June 2018, and suggested the index may be in for a double-digit increase from February to March.

“This is an opportunity for carriers and brokers alike to begin preparing for a busier season as available loads on Loadlink will keep trucks occupied and as a result, rising spot rates may be on the horizon,” the company suggested.

In the US, port backups, rising commodity prices, more government stimulus and new truck backlogs are combining to create a positive rate environment for carriers, reports Today’s Trucking.

“Pushing commercial vehicle demand forward, freight rates ended February at record levels, seasonally adjusted, and started March on an upswing,” said Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice-president and senior analyst.

“With the nation’s ports backed up for months, commodity prices soaring, the manufacturing sector warming up, and the housing market already in full swing, there is unparalleled visibility to strong freight flows. We see more increases on the horizon with a very strong freight volume pipeline and Class 8 production restrained by semiconductor and other parts shortages. We see the latest federal Covid-19 relief package adding to both freight demand and the challenges of re-engaging supply, which presses our spot rate forecasts higher this month.”

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