Is There a “Freight Recession” in the U.S?

Freight Recession - Swift Trucking

Photo: Journal of Commerce

Data Suggests Freight Recession Fears Overblown

“Freight Recession” fears have been in the news recently, with many media pundits fanning the flames. Is there a “freight recession” underway in the U.S.?  While some sectors are struggling, most notably the rails and the oil field industries, the evidence remains somewhat anecdotal and often conflicting.

Our most recent data points from January 2016 strongly suggest that the fears of a freight recession are greatly over exaggerated.  Year-over-year, January traffic is up substantially, and we continue to receive strong inquiries for large scale projects in Q2 and Q3 of this year.

A recent article appearing in the Journal of Commerce reflected similar views from of one of the nation’s largest truckload carriers, Swift Transportation.  “Recessionary comments have been significantly overblown,” Swift founder and CEO Jerry Moyes told investors and analysts at their recent fourth-quarter earnings conference on January 26th.

December weakness can be viewed as part of traditional, seasonal weakness, rather than an impending collapse in freight volumes.  See here for a widely watched summary of the CASS Freight Index.

For a contrasting view in support of the freight recession theory, see here: Wolf Street Blog.

For the record, we remain bullish on business for 2016 and look to continue building on January’s success.

What has your experience been in your business over the past few months? We’d love to hear from you.

Holiday Shipping Tips – 5 Tips for for Businesses

Holiday Shipping

Ah, the holidays. A time for peace on earth, goodwill toward men, family gatherings and an office Christmas party or two. And shipping. If you are involved in the logistics side of your business, the holidays can be more unpleasant than a week-long visit from your in-laws. Higher freight rates, surging demand and the reduced availability of carrier space can make October through December a real challenge.  Throw in a supply chain crippling blizzard or two and you have the makings of a real Nightmare Before Christmas that Tim Burton would be proud of.

U.S retail sales are expected to grow 3.7% this holiday season according to The National Retail Federation

As if the existing challenges weren’t enough, U.S retail sales are expected to grow 3.7% this holiday season according to The National Retail Federation. While consumers spending an estimated $630 billion between November and December of 2015 will bring a much needed boost to the economy, this increase in retail sales will further constrain supply chain capacity as large retail stores soak up carrier availability by bringing in truckloads of inventory to stock their shelves. The crunch will be particularly problematic in West Coast ports where port congestion remains an issue and trucks remain in very short supply. As with all things related to supply and demand you can expect higher rates as importers chase fewer and fewer planes, trains, boats and trucks.

5 Tips to Lessen The Stress of Holiday Shipping
So what’s a savvy shipping manager to do? Fortunately, there steps you can take to ease the stress of holiday shipping so it doesn’t turn you into The Grinch:

The Grinch1. Plan Ahead: Sure, this may sound obvious to you, but not necessarily so to the folks in sales.  It is especially true if your company is not in the retail space and management is not in tune to the retail crush.  Be sure to remind that guy in Purchasing who always drops his rush order on you at the last minute that FedEx expects a record holiday shipping volume this year. Carriers may need longer lead times to find space for you and transit times will be longer.

2. Ship Early:  Air, ocean and ground freight carriers have raised prices in the 4th quarter for decades. It’s as certain as a re-run of A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Shipping early, even if just by a couple of weeks, can avoid carrier rate hikes and save your company big bucks that your boss will love.

3. Manage Expectations: Even if you succeed in educating the management at your company to the season’s constraints, it’s all for naught of your customers doesn’t get it. After-all, they are they ones that matter most, right? Just as you need to educate your own office, it is critical that you provide your customers with an awareness of increased transit times, seasonal pricing and the need to plan ahead.

4. Keep Us Informed: Closing early for your annual office party? Warehouse shutting down between Christmas and New Years?  Reduced holiday hours? Be sure to keep us informed of operational changes so we can work with you. Everyone in the transportation business is scrambling to keep up during the holidays. You will get better service and have a much happier shipping partner if you keep your local shipping company informed of any operational changes.

Snow Storm5. Keep an Eye on the Weather: For those fortunate enough to live in the warmer corners of the United States, it is easy to forget about the misery that winter weather can bring to travelers and transportation companies. Shipping your company’s booth to your boss at the industry’s annual trade show in New York? What could possibly go wrong? Keep an eye on The Weather Channel for news on impending winter storms and route your freight accordingly. Shipping a few days early or via air instead of ground can make you a hero.

Have another comment or suggestion you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.  Leave us a comment below or email us at:



Greek Shipping Weathers the Storm

Greek Shipping


Update: See this recent CNBC report for an update on the
likelihood of Greek shipping companies helping their country
out of the present debacle.


As the Greek government and European Union (EU) ministers continue their ongoing game of chicken with the country’s economic future, little has been said or written about the impact on the Greek shipping industry and its relation to the world economy.  While Greece accounts for just 0.4% of the world’s economy (source: Bloomberg News), Greek owned shipping, and its handful of billionaire owners (think Aristotle Onassis), move 15% of all the world’s ocean freight.  In a world where 95 percent of all freight moves by ocean, you would think that the consequences of a Greek financial meltdown would be catastrophic to shipping, and thus the world economy as a whole. Fortunately, such is not likely to be the case.

Shipping in Greece has long been a source of national pride. Greek shipping tycoons are typically happy to speak with the press and are quick to brag about their expansive wealth, their collection of super-yachts and palatial homes, and the fact that Greek shipowners command the biggest merchant fleet on earth. However,  these days, getting Greek shipowners to talk about their wealth — or how they might help solve the the country’s seemingly insurmountable economic problems, the aftershocks from which could threaten the financial stability of the entire European Union — is like trying to interview Blackbeard about where the treasure is hidden.

The question is, will the handful of shipowners, who single handedly comprise the wealthiest segment of the Greek population, make the sort of financial investment at home to create jobs and spur investment that could save their country? The answer is anyone’s guess. For almost two years now the Union of Greek Shipowners has urged its members to avoid talking to the press at all.

As the talks drag on and this weekend’s referendum seems to repudiate the EU’s latest bailout offer, the Greek shipping tycoons remain seemingly indifferent to the chaos at home. As recently reported in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper, shipping may be a source of Greek national pride, but it is also a source of resentment. Greece’s 1967 constitution stipulates that the industry pays no taxes on the international earnings it brings into the country. As such, the owners have little to fear from either the debt crisis or an exit from the euro.

“It’s not really affecting us because we’re not Greek companies: we’re based abroad,” said a tanker owner who requested anonymity in view of the sensitivity of the situation. “The law allows us to have a ship registered in Liberia or Panama and an office in Greece. If everything collapses, we can leave the next day and establish in Cyprus or wherever.

“Our business is done in US dollars and shipping companies don’t just have one account in one country,” he said. So, not even the imposition of capital controls on Monday had any impact on Greece’s ship owners.

What will be the final outcome in the ongoing Greek circus in Europe is anyone’s guess at this point. However, one thing is clear. Whether the coin of the realm in Athens turns out to be Euro’s, drachma or dollars, the billionaire boys club of Greece seems certain to navigate the choppy waters and sail on smoothly as their predecessors have done for thousands of years.