Today’s Pickup: West Coast ports post strongest September volumes ever

Containers at the Port of Los Angeles. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

Good day,

The most favorable freight markets for trucks to enter are little changed from last week: Harrisburg, PA, Joliet, IL, Memphis, TN, and Los Angeles, CA lead the country in our Headhaul Index (HAUL.x), which subtracts a market’s inbound volumes from its outbound volume. A higher headhaul value indicates a higher probability of finding a load coming out of a given market.

Over the past two weeks, national tendered volumes (OTVI.USA) have regained momentum, gaining about 3.75% since bottoming on October 9. Outbound volumes from Savannah, New York, and Chicago all posted significant recoveries, and while volume growth out of Los Angeles was more anemic, an imbalance in capacity caused DAT dry van spot rates from Los Angeles to Dallas (DATVF.LAXDAL) to spike 19.3% since October 11, back up to $1.92/mile.

Did you know?

Since September 17th, the FTRI.USA (national flatbed tender rejections) has dropped 48% or 848 bps from 17.74% to 9.26%, indicating flatbed trucks are not as in demand as they have been for the first 3 quarters of the year. 


Norfolk Southern is “considering the consolidation of our Norfolk headquarters into Atlanta, but only if many aspects can be resolved to make sense for Norfolk Southern, its shareholders, and its employees.”

-Jim Squires, CEO of Norfolk Southern, in a video released to employees last Thursday.

In other news:

Truck makers rev up for rollout of electric big rigs

It looks like 2020 could be the big year for electric big rigs. Incumbent truck makers are accelerating their electric truck projects toward launches that year, while Musk told investors in June production of the eye-catching Semi freight hauler should begin “basically (in the) first half of 2020” instead of 2019. (Reuters)

Miscarrying at work: the physical toll of pregnancy discrimination

Pregnant workers at XPO Logistics’ facilities say their supervisors have refused to assign them to light duty, and several have suffered miscarriages after working strenuous shifts. (The New York Times)

Can Flexport keep advancing as the US-China trade war rages overhead?

“The outside world has become fixated on Flexport.” So said Steve Walker, founder of SBS Worldwide and chief executive of forwarder supplier SWG, in a speech to Canadian Forwarder Association CIFFA this week. (The LoadStar)

Software provider E2open buys shipping platform Inttra

Software company E2open LLC is acquiring container shipping booking platform Inttra Inc., extending consolidation of the supply-chain management technology arena into the nuts-and-bolts of ocean transportation. (Wall Street Journal)

The world’s fourth-biggest oil producer can’t keep the lights on

Iraq is fast becoming a global oil powerhouse, gaining stature in OPEC after it surpassed Canada this year as the world’s fourth-biggest producer. But the war-ravaged country has little to show for its feat. (Bloomberg)

Final Thought:

“September West Coast port volumes recovered from their August disappointment,” transportation equities analyst Bascome Majors wrote this morning, “confirming the peak season pickup that most transport providers are suggesting they’re finally seeing and boding well for a better demand backdrop for N.A. surface transportation than during 3Q.”

In fact, West Coast ports posted their strongest September volumes ever: Los Angeles was up 8.5% year-over-year, Savannah was up 9%, and Charleston volumes increased 10%. Container rates from China to the West Coast continued their upward trajectory, reaching $2,487 per box and demonstrating how much progress the steamship lines have made toward achieving price and capacity discipline.

Hammer down everyone!


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John Paul Hampstead, Associate Editor

John Paul writes about current events and economics, especially politics, finance, and commodities, and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. In previous lives John Paul studied Shakespeare in London and Buddhism in India, but now he focuses on transportation and logistics in the heart of Freight Alley--Chattanooga. He spends his free time with his wife and daughter herding cats, collecting books, and walking alongside the Tennessee River.