Looking at the Producer Price Index (PPI), which is focused more on upstream production costs, that direction has already changed and has been slowing since June. Transportation costs are a portion of this figure.
The point is that scarcity is diminishing. Supply chain congestion is easing. Consumer conditions have diminished from a purchasing power perspective. It takes time for this all to fully work its way into macroeconomic figures and behavior to change fully.
The transportation sector has been on the front end of both the economic boom and its recent decline. The reason for this is that transportation is the backbone of the goods economy. All goods, unfinished and finished, need to be moved at some point.
Raw materials move ahead of production and represent the furthest upstream view of aggregate demand. Finished goods moving to brick-and-mortar stores and fulfillment centers are also represented in transportation data.
While truckload and import demand may not have fully eroded back to pre-pandemic levels, the direction and time of the year suggest that it won’t be long until we are there. Seasonally speaking, retail volumes tend to spike just prior to and around the holidays, but there is little evidence of that at this point.
December and January are the slowest months of the year for domestic freight movements, meaning that it will probably get worse for transportation providers this winter without some sort of black swan event.