Rail and Truckload Demand Stable

The downturn in freight, which has been referred to as the "freight recession," began in the fourth quarter of 2006, says the proprietary Truckload Freight Index. Statistically, carriers are "lapping" comparisons with prior-year volumes, and rail industrial traffic is showing year-on-year growth while absolute volumes are no longer deteriorating.

The case for truckload demand is soft but trending above last year.

Demand is recovering, said Morgan Stanley, and supply (capacity) is slowing trending down. Truckload utilization, therefore, is likely to improve. There is a time lag between rail and truck, the analysts point out, because trucks carry more finished goods than railroads, and finished goods are further down the supply chain. It could take longer for truck volumes to recover fully and, say the analysts, it will take another few quarters to shed enough capacity to bring supply into balance (in the absence of a manufacturing rebound).

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