March 2023 Freight Market Update

03/08/2023 by Greg Massey

March 2023 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.


That is the $64,000 question. Since the start of the year, freight volumes have been stable but certainly suppressed as compared to the last few years (Figure 1.1). In addition, the rate at which carriers reject shipment tenders is almost nil, with almost 97 percent of the freight tenders being nabbed by carriers with contract pricing.  

We will certainly see the seasonal freight patterns in 2023, with produce and outdoor products providing a boost in the coming weeks. And the end-of-year push for back-to-school and Christmas should also lend a boost, although that end-of-year buying seems to be more spread throughout the year. Many in the industry got accustomed to an over-heated, reactionary market over the past few years. With that as the backdrop, the one word I can think of to describe how the market will feel is “blah” in 2023.

Figure 1.1

Contract rates continue to outpace the spot market. While carriers with submitted contract rates are right-sizing rates in response to the market, expenses that have been exaggerated over the past few years, such as driver pay and benefits, maintenance costs, and insurance premiums, are keeping contract rates well above spot.  

As one can see in Figure 1.2, as rejection rates have declined, meaning less freight being pushed to the spot market, it has a mirror effect on the spread between contract and spot rates, currently sitting at $0.84 less per mile on the spot side. Shippers will continue to fulfill their contractual obligations with regards to tendered volume, but being able to utilize the spot market does bring cost savings to shippers.

Figure 1.2

Finally, activity at the ports continues to decline, especially on the import side. As seen in Figure 1.3, just a year ago, ports were handling 10-20 percent more inbound volume, that change today is a decrease from a year ago. Inventories have been replenished over the past year and a half, and consumer demand for goods is less. This trend is most likely to continue through the year, driving the spot container cost down and subduing activity around U.S. ports.

Stay Up To dAte

Looking for a more frequent update? Subscribe to our newsletter and receive Weekly News Updates every Friday by selecting “Weekly News Update” when you select your preferences.

Join Our Mailing List for Frequent News Updates