Truckstop, Bloomberg survey: Owner-operators, small fleets say spot market is at bottom

A truck on the highway.

Truckstop and Bloomberg Intelligence surveyed owner-operators and small fleets, and they say the spot market may be at or near the bottom. 

"The worst may be near for the North American truckload spot market," says Lee Klaskow, senior freight transportation and logistics analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "Capacity could drop as rates hover near or below operating costs, which is crucial for the spot market to reach equilibrium." 

[RELATED: Trucks, Parts, Service 2023 analysis and 2024 forecast roundup]

In the fourth quarter survey, the majority of respondents (68%) reported lower volume and 23% said loads were flat. Most respondents seemed to believe that current demand has reached its low point, with 40% predicting flat volume over the next 3-6 months. That's 10 percentage points higher than in the third-quarter survey. 

Rates will likely stay flat in the next six months, respondents believe, with 32% anticipating further declines and only 22% expecting improvement. Respondents reported an average 14% drop in rates in the fourth quarter. 

Carriers are also still holding off on buying new trucks. Only 14% say they might make a purchase over the next six months. Weak demand was cited by 44% of respondents as the reason why they're not buying new equipment. Carriers reported that loads dropped an average of 13% in the fourth quarter. Owner operators say that makes them unsure about their status. Almost half — 43% — are unsure about their status in six months and 12% are looking to leave the industry. 

[Download our state of the industry survey results!]

"We share the sentiments of our customers and hold an optimistic outlook that spot market conditions will improve this year," says Kendra Tucker, CEO of Truckstop. 

The survey sample size was 148, pulled from dry van, flatbed, temperature controlled, specialized/diversified fleets, hot shot and step-deck carriers. Of the respondents, 52% operate just one truck. 

Learn how to move your used trucks faster
With unsold used inventory depreciating at a rate of more than 2% monthly, efficient inventory turnover is a must for dealers. Download this eBook to access proven strategies for selling used trucks faster.
Used Truck Guide Cover