National outbound freight volumes are drying up as fast they came. Since the peak nine days ago, OTVI.USA has shed 12.5% to a current 10,974.47. In the same period preceding the peak, outbound tendered volumes rose nearly 11%. It is safe to say this peak is behind us. The panic-buying pull forward of demand for groceries and consumer packaged goods (CPG) is over.
Data from Placer.ai, a retail intelligence provider, shows that foot traffic to the nation’s largest packaged retailers (Walmart, Costco and Target) fell off considerably towards the end of March.
As we have noted over the past two weeks, we believe only 40% of truckload freight is safe from a lockdown environment including food, medical supplies and some CPG. It is possible the drop in foot traffic could be a lull in between grocery demand spikes. We believe some of the demand for CPG will be weaker due to the pull forward, but overall demand for grocery and packaged goods will be strong through the next few weeks.
If OTVI continues its descent at this pace, we would expect volumes to fall another 6% before our next publication. Volumes are still elevated above historical comparisons, but with consumer spending down 30%, we expect volumes to tumble for the month of April.
Just one of the 15 major freight markets FreightWaves tracks was positive on a week-over-week basis. The ratio of positive markets has plummeted compared to recent weeks and so has the absolute weekly percentage increases. The market with a gain in OTVI.USA was Atlanta (0.16%). On the downside, this week saw a decline in Cleveland (-21.46%), Fresno, California (-18.58%) and Laredo, Texas (-17.47%).
Tender rejections fall sharply this week
Much like OTVI, the outbound tender rejection index (OTRI) has also peaked and is rapidly slipping to the downside. OTRI is only four days off its peak, but it is exhibiting the same trend as OTVI – rejections have fallen 16.3% off the peak, and in the four days prior to the peak OTRI rose only 5%.
Capacity is still quite tight around the country, and OTRI remains higher than at any point in 2019. However, much like volumes, tender rejections will continue to plummet in April. With a majority of the country on lockdown and many industries at near total shutdown, there simply isn’t enough freight to keep capacity this tight for long.
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