After a challenging year of bankruptcies, closures, layoffs, and labor troubles, some analysts see reason to hope for a comeback, per new reporting from FreightWaves. With hope in their eyes, some freight experts are asking, “Will 2024 be the year of the comeback?”
But it’s not all starry-eyes and big hopes. Matheson Flight Extenders, a leading contractor for the U.S. Postal Service, has announced plans to cut 1,000 jobs and close facilities across three states, and some experts are casting doubt on supply chain decarbonization plans. On the brighter side, Intelligent Audit’s Joe Wilkinson has some words of wisdom for parcel shippers, and parcel start-up Better Trucks is shaking up the last-mile game in key Texas markets.
Whether grim tidings or good, here are the news items and trends shaping the industry that’s always moving.
According to data collected by FreightWaves, the freight market reached its bottom on May 14 and has been on a steady climb since then. Despite many industry experts predicting otherwise, this data stokes some hopes for a noticeable peak season for motor carriers. While they might get some relief, overcapacity in the market might continue to impede the industry’s recovery.
As carriers gain the upper hand over shippers in early 2024, FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller offers some advice for shippers looking to prepare for a shift in the freight economy: “They should prepare now by benchmarking their freight costs against data, locking in contract rates, or using index-linked contracts to manage rate/capacity risk.”
Throughout 2023, the freight market has struggled with a capacity imbalance: too many trucks and too little freight. Data from August, however, indicates that the imbalance might be changing. The Logistics Managers Index (LMI), a leading supply chain index, showed a reading of 60.5 for transportation capacity in August. While this reading shows an expansion in capacity, the growth rate has slowed to its slowest since April 2023, revealing that transportation demand may finally be catching up with capacity.
“Transportation markets are nowhere near a full recovery to the levels we saw from summer 2020 to early 2022,” according to the LMI report, “but it is possible we are now seeing concrete steps moving out of the freight recession.”
On Aug. 31, Matheson Flight Extenders (MFE) filed paperwork with the U.S. Department of Labor stating plans to cut 305 jobs and shutter its sorting facility in Chicopee, Mass. The news comes following the May 2022 bankruptcy of MFE’s parent company, family-owned Matheson Trucking.
Currently, MFE operates 38 terminal handling facilities to assist with a parcel’s transition from air freight to overland transportation. While the layoffs’ effect on USPS operations is unknown, MFE’s cutbacks are another stumbling block for an agency that has seen significant challenges in the past year.
In a new article in the industry publication Parcel, Joe Wilkinson, the VP of Professional Services at Intelligent Audit, writes, “Shippers swing back and forth between savings and diversification as if it’s a binary choice. While that may have been true at one time, seeing savings and risk mitigation as mutually exclusive goals now is a false dichotomy. Today, you can have it all.”
Wilkinson recommends shippers invest in carrier flexibility, density, operations, and technology to make the most out of a sustainable carrier diversification strategy. Read the article to get Joe’s take on the latest diversification strategies.
Scope 3 emissions, which include all emissions associated with a company’s supply chain, often constitute as much as 70% of a business's total emissions, according to research from Deloitte. Despite the impact of these emissions on climate change and increased regulatory scrutiny aimed at businesses, companies have been slow to reduce emissions in their supply chains.
A new report from Supply Chain Dive reporter Ben Unglesbee reveals that for many companies, the struggle lies in the cost of Scope 3 emissions tracking: “Scope 3 emissions, specifically those tied to the supply chain, present an especially steep challenge and cost burden,” Unglesbee wrote in his Aug. 15 report. “Simply understanding the extent of a footprint takes time, data, and often technology. All of that takes money. Because these emissions occur outside the company’s purview, they are the most expensive to track, while also often being by far the biggest chunk of most carbon footprints.”
Better Trucks, a carrier focused on rapid parcel delivery, has announced an expansion into strategic Texas markets, including Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Thanks to a partnership with GLS, a parcel service provider focused on the Western U.S., Better Trucks now services 32 markets across 20 states.
“Technology is a key focus of our partnership with GLS to create a seamless handoff between our operations to expand coverage for our respective customers,” Better Trucks Co-Founder and CEO Andy Whiting said in an Aug. 28 press release. “It is vital to both of us to uphold our high service standards. Customers can still print labels, initiate pickups, and track packages as they always have, but now from coast to coast.”
In an Aug 29 blog published by S&P Global Market Intelligence, a close analysis of import trends reveals that U.S. retailers are getting into the Halloween spirit early in 2023, with the highest rates of Halloween-related imports seen in June and July and falling by 6% in August, with costume-specific imports declining by 13%. Despite the steep decline in costume shipments, fans of Bozo and Pennywise may find a silver lining: clown-themed costume shipments increased by a staggering 46%, according to the S&P report.
As the freight market shows the first signs of recovery, today’s shippers need to be prepared for anything. Intelligent Audit is the smart shipper’s choice for tech-enabled supply chain resilience, with a vast suite of innovative supply chain software tools to leverage against a volatile market:
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