Our research over the years has identified a tendency for shippers to be overly optimistic about future freight volumes. For example, 47% of shippers expected their shipment volumes to increase in 2009, which turned out to be far off the mark. (As it turned out only 27% of shippers actually increased freight volumes in 2009.) But the depth of the recession did wreak more havoc on shipper projections than normal.
Another trend our research has identified is a tendency among motor carriers to considerably underestimate freight volume projections. For example, even though shippers proved overly optimistic in their freight volume projections, as noted above, motor carriers were overly pessimistic. Only 19% of motor carriers forecast an increase in freight volumes for 2009. The trend appears to be followed again this year. Shippers responding to our latest survey were fairly positive about 2010, with about 6 in 10 expecting an increase in freight activity from last year’s dismal numbers. Yet only 39% of motor carriers are expecting an increase. The majority (50%) expect freight volumes to remain the same.
It is our belief that carrier volume projections being out of sync with shipper projections may also create the possibility for excess capacity in the future. If, for example, carriers underestimate freight volumes in the first year of a recovery and thus lose out on some business, they may be more prone to overestimate the following year’s volumes to avoid making the same mistake. Yet in so doing they may add excess capacity.
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