The U.S. trucking industry hauls 10 billion tons of freight a year – dwarfing rail, barge and air, with more than 70% of all domestic shipments – connecting supply and demand in a sophisticated supply chain often overlooked by the end consumer. With the trucking industry facing strong demand and operating at full capacity, the relationship between truck logistics and consumer costs may soon become more difficult to ignore. Over the past 15 months, pricing power has shifted toward trucking companies and away from cargo shippers. In response, freight rates are firming, and transportation costs are reaching new highs. Whether measured by record-setting freight movements, shipping expenditures or fleet utilization data, the outlook for U.S. trucking and intermodal logistics providers is robust.
The average cost to ship a 53-foot container by truck from Los Angeles to Chicago was $2,845 during the week ended December 31, 2017. The cost to truck a container along the same 2,032-mile route was $4,305 during the week ended August 31, 2018.1 The fact that freight costs soared by up to 50% (in some regions) during the first eight months of the year reflects tight capacity in the trucking industry that has been strained by high demand. While supply is responding accordingly as new orders for trucks reach new highs and lead times extend, the industry is struggling to find the truckers to drive them.