Has trucking demand reached the bottom? 4th quarter survey says 'yes'

Updated Feb 27, 2024
Parked tractor-trailer

According to the latest Bloomberg | Truckstop survey, which polled owner-operators and small fleets, most respondents believe that current demand has reached its bottom.

“The worst may be near for the North American truckload spot market,” said Lee Klaskow, senior freight transportation and logistics analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.  “Capacity could drop as rates hover near or below operating costs, which is crucial for the spot market to reach equilibrium.”

The Bloomberg | Truckstop 4Q23 Truckload Survey shows: 

  • Demand challenges may have hit bottom: Demand remained pressured in the fourth quarter of 2023 as 68% of respondents noted lower volume and 23% reported loads were flat. Most respondents appeared to believe that current demand has reached its low point, with 40% predicting flat volume over the next 3three to six months, 10 percentage points higher than in the third quarter's survey.
  • Carriers are still reluctant to buy additional tractors, with only 14% saying they might make a purchase over the next six months. Weak demand was cited by 44% as the main reason for not buying equipment.
  • Spot rates may have hit bottom: Most carriers believe that spot rates excluding fuel surcharges are bouncing along a bottom, with an average 14% drop for respondents in 4Q. Such rates likely will remain flat in the next 3-6 months, according to 46% of respondents, while 32% anticipate declines and 22% expect improvement.
  • Carriers remain resolute: Loads dropped an average of 13% in the fourth quarter amid a soft economy and tough comparisons. This has created uncertainty for many owner-operators, with 43% unsure about their status in six months and 12% looking to leave the industry.

“We share the sentiments of our customers and hold an optimistic outlook that spot market conditions will improve this year,” said Kendra Tucker, chief executive officer, Truckstop. 

The Bloomberg | Truckstop survey of owner-operators and small fleets provides insights into the health of the spot market. The sample size was 148, consisting of dry-van, flatbed, temperature-controlled and specialized/diversified, hot-shot and step-deck carriers. Of the respondents, 52% operate just one tractor.