Freight companies are preparing for what executives are calling a muted peak season, as dimming shipping demand from overstocked retailers ripples across U.S. shipping markets.
Several big operators say they are seeing freight demand drop off rather than pick up heading into what is typically their busiest period of the year. The downshift in business is sending rates in trucking’s volatile spot market downward and the weakness is starting to filter into the contract business that makes up the largest share of trucking volumes.
“The fourth quarter is generally the peak of the holiday shipping season,” David Yeager, chief executive of Hub Group Inc., a Chicago-based trucking and rail freight services provider, said in an earnings conference call Thursday.
“However, judging by the feedback from our clients, this peak will be muted versus historic norms. Beyond 2022, we do acknowledge the potential for a continued softening economy,” he said.
“We are expecting a muted peak season this year,” Adam Miller, chief financial officer at Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc., said on the truckload carrier’s earnings call Oct. 19. “Spot opportunities have declined significantly, and we have been pivoting towards making more commitments through the bid season to reduce our exposure in the spot market.”