Hours of service rules were just beginning to affect truckload carriers, bringing some benefit to less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers. . .especially long-haul regionals like Con-Way. Truckload demand remains firm, which has allowed TL carriers to increase and hold rates, according to equity research firm Morgan Stanley's Truckload Freight Index.
Werner Enterprises reports only slight impact from hours of service on equipment utilization levels. Shipper behavior has probably helped as increases in stop-off fees for multi-stop truckload shipments have caused many to reexamine LTL alternatives.
Increased tonnages may mask the impact of factors like truckload capacity, hours of service, driver supply and market share gains.
Manufacturing output is showing continued strength as the National Association of Manufacturers reports the fifth consecutive month of increased output. Durable goods — including machinery, computers, motor vehicles, aerospace products and fabricated metals — increased for the third consecutive month in January. NAM forecasts a 6% growth rate for manufacturing in 2004. . . a faster rate than the overall economy for the first time in four years.
Carriers' first-quarter financial reports should provide more insight into how much volume is shifting market share and how much is actual growth.