June 2024 Freight Market Update

06/14/2024 by Greg Massey

June 2024 Freight Market Update

Stay up to date on the latest information on conditions impacting the freight market, curated by Trinity Logistics through our Freightwaves Sonar subscription.


The Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI) measures the volume of contracted freight in the U.S. While this does not account for the spot market, ebbs and flows in contract freight have a direct impact on spot market volume and pricing. The outlier on the graph below (Figure 1.1) is the yellow line, representing calendar year 2021. This was an unprecedented year for freight volume, primarily influenced by consumer spending. While many feel the freight market is suppressed, that is not necessarily the case. 2024 will follow a more traditional freight flow pattern, with volumes up five to eight percent, year-over-year (YoY).

Figure 1.1

Measuring the freight volume is not enough to predict swings in pricing. Being able to overlay the frequency in which carriers say “no” to freight tenders via the Outbound Tender Rejection Index (OTRI) gives a good picture whether the capacity side of the market can handle those swings.

The below chart (Figure 2.1) looks at the amount of contracted freight volume (blue line) with the frequency of tender rejections (green line) overlayed. As can see, most of 2019 and the first part of 2020 saw a market where freight volumes were easily handled. This was a result of lower than anticipated freight volumes versus a glut of carriers in the market.

Figure 2.1: The blue line represents the amount of contracted freight volume while the green line represents the frequency of tender rejections.

Then March 2020 happened. Everything went on lockdown. Volumes and rejection rates plummeted. That was quickly followed by a freight injection and for the latter part of 2020, and all of 2021, the market struggled with a lack of capacity to handle the record freight volumes.

For example, most LTL carriers were operating at 105-107 percent of capacity when they normally are in the low to mid-90s range. The freight market pendulum was in favor of the carriers. When the market gets hot, everyone wants in, which is what was happening in 2021, and 2022 – new carriers raced to get in on the action while existing carriers looked to soak up as much rolling stock as they could to capitalize on the market.

2023 saw a return to more traditional levels, but the capacity remained. As a result, rejection rates for freight tenders took a dive to below five percent, indicating carriers were eager for any freight that kept their fleets moving. This caused freight rates to take a dive (Figure 3.1) and then stabilize as of late.

Figure 3.1

But how long will shippers be able to rely on rate stability? Most likely the best determination will be the pace at which carriers exit the market.

Figure 4.1 clearly shows capacity has been coming out of the market (blue line) for the past year. Most of that capacity is small – micro-fleets and owner operators. Certainly, this is dwindling capacity, but not to the extent of a large carrier pulling out of the market. A slow drip for sure.

The orange line represents the OTVI (volume) in the market, and that has slowly climbed over the last 12 months with the normal seasonal up and downs. At some point, as the volume inches up and capacity comes down, it’s simple supply and demand. Many are pointing to the end of this year, more likely spring of 2025 when that balance starts to shift. Now is the time for shippers to learn the contingency plans that are in place with their carrier and broker providers to account for this. 

Figure 4.1: The blue line represents capacity coming out of the freight market. The orange line represents the freight volume.

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