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Old Dominion report sees an LTL market that is slowing

LTL carriers Old Dominion Freight (NASDAQ: ODFL) and SAIA Inc. (NASDAQ: SAIA) released intra-quarter updates on tonnage and revenue, with Old Dominion’s numbers reflecting slowing demand.

Old Dominion, one of the largest LTL carriers in the trucking sector, reported a revenue per day increase of 4.2% because of an increase in LTL revenue per hundredweight. The Old Dominion report did not break out LTL revenue per hundredweight for May but said that for the second quarter of this year, LTL revenue per hundredweight was running 10.4% more than the corresponding quarter of 2018. Revenue per hundredweight in the first quarter, reported in the company’s earnings, was up 9.6% from the first quarter of last year.

The gains in revenue were offset in part by a 5.8% decrease in LTL tons per day. The report strongly suggests that rate increases presumably put into effect through contract agreements last year are sticking, but less LTL freight is being moved.

The slowdown in demand for Old Dominion was also evident in two other statistics reported by the company for its May operations. There was a 4% decrease in LTL weight per shipment and a 1.9% decrease in LTL shipments.

In the company’s first quarter earnings call, which took place at the end of April, CEO Greg Gantt talked about the pricing environment Old Dominion was seeing then. “We’re not losing business accounts, but we’re maybe losing certain lanes, because we were outpriced,” he said on the call. “(W)e’re just seeing some aggression that we have not seen in prior years. It’s not widespread at this point, but we are seeing some.” But the 10.4% gain in revenue per hundredweight for the first two months of this quarter actually ran above the 9.6% of the first quarter.

In the prepared statement released Tuesday with the data, Gantt said Old Dominion was “pleased to see the continued improvement in our yield and general stability of industry pricing. “

At Saia, shipments were up in April but tonnage was down. The Saia announcement covered April but not May.

Saia said its shipments per workday were up 1.3% in April and LTL tonnage per workday was down 4.7% compared to April 2018. But after adjusting for Good Friday–Good Friday was in March in 2018 and in April in 2019–the shipments per workday came in at 3.2% higher than last year but tonnage per workday was down 2.7%. In May, shipments per workday were up 3.1% and tonnage per workday declines 2.5% compared to May 2018. In short, more shipments but less tonnage per shipment. Saia made no other comment about its numbers in its filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.


  1. Old Dominion has actually had a few layoffs in Indianapolis, one of its major hubs. Many linehaul drivers aren’t getting a full work week. It has been slow for several months. Rate increases support revenue numbers.

    1. I work at the Par terminal. We haven’t had any layoffs, but their are people who go home quit early. Some of the employees are only working 34- 40 hours in a week then the 50 hours we normally work. I am asked from the recent new hires at Par, so if this is the normal pace and if they are at risk of layoffs.

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