Loadlink weathers the storm that is 2020 as overall annual load volumes down only four percent while truck-to-load balance tips toward slightly healthier levels in December.
TORONTO – In December, Loadlink’s Canadian spot market loads declined eight percent from November and decreased one percent compared to December 2019. Historically, December load volumes follow no clear trend, but extended lockdown measures enacted in December to combat rising COVID-19 cases may have played a role in diminished volumes. As expected, truck availability lessened due to more drivers wanting to be home during the holidays, which brought more balance to the spot market as the truck-to-load ratio dipped by three percent.
2020 SPOT FREIGHT HIGHLIGHTS
- March had the highest single month freight volumes since June 2018
- The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated over 50 percent of freight in April and May
- Recovery began in June following a 42 percent increase in freight volumes from May
- From April to November, monthly load volumes increased for seven consecutive months
- Annual truck and load volumes both fell four percent compared to 2019 resulting in only a one percent year-over-year decline in average truck-to-load ratio
December freight volumes started off strong following November’s great performance leading up to the American Thanksgiving holiday. The first week of December saw load volumes jump 10 percent from the last week of November, primarily due to lessened volumes from the holidays which eliminated much cross-border freight. December continued to trend upwards with the second and third weeks of the month seeing consecutive week-over-week increases of four and five percent, respectively. During the third week of December, Loadlink’s spot market witnessed the latest single day high in freight since prior to the pandemic. Following some of the strongest weekly freight levels since March, both truck and load volumes dipped significantly due to the Christmas and New Year holidays, with back-to-normal volumes not seen until the first week of January.
Outbound Cross-border Activity
For the third consecutive month, outbound cross-border load volumes saw both a month-over-month (-13%) and year-over-year (-24%) decline. Equipment postings fell 14 percent on a monthly basis, which was generally in line with other major Canadian regions, while on a year-over-year comparison was down just three percent. Activity was generally muted across all regions of Canada with Quebec delivering 23 percent less freight while Ontario and Western Canada were the sources of nine and eight percent less freight, respectively.
Although outbound cross-border loads continued a streak of negative performances, some standout provincial/state lanes include Manitoba to Wisconsin, Alberta to Washington and British Columbia to Washington. The lanes above saw freight volume increases of 83, 62 and 48 percent, respectively.
Inbound Cross-border Activity
In contrast to recent months of slowing outbound cross-border activity, inbound activity on the Canadian spot market continued to improve on both a monthly and year-over-year basis despite the holiday season and overall lessened activity in the latter half of December. Month-over-month, inbound load postings increased three percent while year-over-year, December 2020 saw 23 percent more loads compared to 2019. Truck availability decreased 15 percent from November and was short seven percent compared to 2019.
Western Canada had the largest month-over-month growth with a 10 percent boost in volumes. Ontario saw just a slight uptick of two percent more loads, while inbound load volumes to Quebec remained virtually unchanged. Most major American states with a heavy supply of loads inbound to Canada saw between three to five percent more loads. Other states with moderate amounts of loads with the largest gains in monthly load postings included Louisiana (+36%), Massachusetts (+27%) and Connecticut (26%).
Loadlink’s trend of growing domestic activity was halted by a slower holiday season, but the overall impact was dulled due to a balanced decline in truck availability. Intra-Canadian activity saw a 15 percent decrease in both load and truck postings in December compared to the previous month. Year-over-year, the freight decline was lesser at just three percent, while truck volumes rose five percent compared to December 2019.
Declines in freight from all domestic origin and destination pairings within Canada was visible across the board with almost all provinces hovering around the average mark of 15 percent less freight with no apparent outliers. This is a good indicator of a quiet winter holiday period being the primary cause for lessened domestic spot market activity as the decline was equally shared among all regions, rather than any substantial market movement due to shifts in any provinces’ economic or coronavirus-related responses. Among all domestic lanes, only a handful saw positive gains in activity from November. This included Saskatchewan to Manitoba (+19%), Quebec to New Brunswick (+16%), Ontario to Quebec (+6%), Ontario to New Brunswick (+3%) and Manitoba to Alberta (+2%).
In December, the best performing lanes belonged to cross-border inbound markets. As noted in previous sections, both outbound cross-border and domestic lanes saw overall declines, which left inbound lanes the opportunity to occupy the top ranks in regards to absolute month-over-month increases in load volumes and in relative percentage gains. The Alberta to Washington lane appeared in both tables as a standout lane, being the only non-inbound lane that saw both large total volume and percentage increases in load postings in December.
Table 1: Top 5 Lanes with Largest Absolute Increase in Loads
*Based on lanes with at least 500 postings in December. Ranking is based on how many more loads that lane gained month-over-month, compared to all lanes visible on Loadlink (with minimum 500 postings).
Table 2: Top 5 Lanes with Largest Percentage Increase in Loads
*Based on lanes with at least 500 postings in December. Ranking is based on how large the percentage increase in loads for that lane was compared to all lanes visible on Loadlink (with minimum 500 postings).
Figure 1: Top 10 Lanes in December by Largest % Increase in Average Loads per Poster
The following city-to-city lanes saw notable improvements in freight volumes on a monthly basis. The overall decline in freight activity from the winter holiday season contributed to more than half of the top 100 lanes that saw growth in November seeing percentage decreases in December instead. As a result, a total of 41 lanes saw increased month-over-month comparisons while 65 lanes saw positive year-over-year changes.
Table 3: Spotlight City-to-City Lanes with Notable Improvements