Truckload Volumes Improve

Through the week ending August 21, 2009, the Morgan Stanley Truckload Freight Index showed “signs of sequential improvement” at a rate faster than normal seasonality.

The index, which measures truckload demand against capacity, was at the highest level for the year on a seasonally adjusted basis, said Morgan Stanley. However, volumes were still weak.

“Retail inventories appear to be at a level where destocking is mostly finished,” said the report. “This is consistent with recent carrier comments that demand seems to have bottomed as well as our latest index readings.”

The Morgan Stanley report noted that the analysts did not see a sudden restocking on the horizon, but the current results suggest that truckload demand is unlikely to deteriorate further and could rebound if consumer demand picks up.

On a statistical note, the analysts pointed out that as carriers lap easier year-on-year comparisons in the upcoming fourth quarter, improving demand should produce much smaller declines in utilization and pricing. If consumer spending should produce some surprises in the second half, a few carriers could post year-on-year gains in pricing or utilization.

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