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  • June 2021
  • 206 pages
  • ID: 6101239
  • Format: PDF
  • Mordor Intelligence LLP


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The United States Less-than-truckload Market is expected to witness a CAGR of more than 2% through the forecast period (2021 - 2026).

The United States trucking market during the COVID-19 pandemic has offered a roller coaster experience of supply to demand and pricing at unprecedented levels. One of the many contributing factors is the demand placed on trucking and intermodal around the port regions. Approximately six months into COVID-19, one of the major impacts has been undeliverable shipments, as the receiver was closed due to non-essential business closures, or it had an outbreak necessitating a temporary closure to quarantine exposed individuals and clean the facilities.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.84 billion metric tons of freight in 2019. Motor carriers collected USD 791.7 billion, or 80.4%, of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

US less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers experienced a hard-braking event in 2019, as the freight boom of 2018 boomeranged back to the type of soft market last seen in 2015 and 2016. Additionally, a slowdown in the US manufacturing and tumbling truckload spot market rates seemed to suck the freight from trailers at many LTL companies, although many managed to increase revenue.

There are clear parallels between 2015-2016 and 2019. Both periods were soft patches of slower economic growth rather than recessions, even though freight volumes contracted.

Throughout 2019, large LTL carriers doubled their efforts to build freight density, improve hub-and-spoke terminal networks, and bolster profits. For instance, Old Dominion Freight Line (ODFL) continued to expand its network, while Estes Express diversified services through acquisition and the application of new technology, and Saia added several terminals in the Northeast.

Key Market Trends
Growth in E-Commerce to Boost the LTL Market

E-commerce continues to transform the retail landscape in the United States, and consumer confidence remains relatively high as online shopping, and mobile e-commerce provides new ways to shop for and buy goods and services.

The United States ranks as the second largest e-commerce market, globally, second only to China in terms of sales.

Despite appearing to be a highly established market, the United States offers significant opportunities for e-commerce growth because e-commerce is still a minor shopping channel in the country. As online shopping in the United States accounts for just 8.9% of overall retail sales, there is still plenty of room for the market to grow and steal share from traditional bricks-and-mortar commerce.

According to industry reports, the LTL segment is expected to benefit from the growth of e-commerce. LTL volume growth may reflect increased consumer spending, business investment, foreign trade, and domestic manufacturing. Additionally, LTL is expected to benefit from online shopping expanding at almost twice the rate of total non-auto retailing.

UPS, FedEx, and their regional competition are expected to be challenged by, and yet to grow from, residential-driven e-commerce. As a result, LTL tonnage may not immediately have the support of recoveries in housing, construction, and light vehicle sales. Instead of in recovery, LTL carrier tonnage may reflect the evolving product/commodity mix.

Growing Trucking Industry in the Country

Despite contraction during 2020, the long-term trend for both trucking and overall freight shipments remained positive. According to industry reports, trucking volumes were expected to rebound in 2021, rising 4.9% next year and then growing 3.2% per year on average through 2026.

Trucking companies are reporting stronger freight demand as retailers and manufacturers move to restock depleted inventories, in a sign of strengthening corporate confidence in the US economy.

Trucking rates in the United States are continuing to grow, with little relief in sight for shippers. Although the demand is expected to remain strong throughout 2021, costs for truckers have gone up as well as recent contracts have shown mid-to-high single-digit rate increases.

Therefore, this growth in the industry is likely to affect the trucking capacity crisis. Full truckload can not handle the capacity crisis, and LTL is stepping in as the solution to save cost and time. Due to LTL’s efficiency, flexibility, speed, reduced cost, streamlined routes, and simplified shipping plans, more retailers partner with LTL companies.

Competitive Landscape
The market is concentrated due to the complexities involved in the LTL market. The top 25 companies make most of the revenue. The market is dominated by FedEx, XPO logistics, ODFL, and YRC Freight. FedEx and UPS are the two significant players for cross-border and small parcel shipping.

The major and growing LTL carriers are those that invest in new technology to reduce costs, optimize capacity, and expand their network. As a result, LTL companies that implement technology are seeing significant benefits over their non-tech counterparts.

Companies have highly developed and sophisticated information technology systems that allow them the information to provide better service at a lower cost.

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