2019 Rate Outlook: Stay steady, strong and focused

Indeed, it’s rare that we find a year when global trade has such an unsettling effect on domestic inventory levels, port volumes and capacity demands to handle the influx at those gateways.

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Our Rate Outlook cover story is a tradition that started back in January of 2005, and it’s one that I hope continues to be an important forecasting tool for decades to come. The premise has never changed: Kick off the year with a picture of the state of the global economy and fuel cost and then examine how that reality will affect freight rates and capacity levels across each mode of transportation.

This structure brings together some of the leading trade, fuel and freight transportation analysts in the market, allowing each a few minutes at the lectern to offer a quick glimpse into the future to help shippers prepare their freight transportation budgets for the coming year.

This format works well for readers in print, and it also works in our Annual Rate Outlook Webcast (Jan. 24) when this esteemed group takes the mic to dig even deeper into the findings of the print feature.

This marks the 9th year that executive editor Patrick Burnson has led the charge in this story. Because Burnson has spent the last 12 years covering the ocean, ports and global logistics markets, it’s only fitting that he rounds up a panel again this year considering that now—more than ever—we find unsettled global trade issues causing more headaches domestically than any time in recent memory.

“If one were to draw a single conclusion from interviews for this feature it’s this: trade does not happen in a vacuum,” says Burnson. “Given the overheated political environment in most global markets, logistics managers are certain to confront a new set of challenges in rate hikes, capacity, and added costs when planning their domestic and global budgets this year—and the feeling is that the disagreements are far from settled.”

Indeed, it’s rare that we find a year when global trade has such an unsettling effect on domestic inventory levels, port volumes and capacity demands to handle the influx at those gateways. And while many Burnson interviewed this year believe that much of the uncertainly can be stabilized with a few strokes of political pens, the time it will take to rebalance that capacity could be years.

But as we’re well aware, the trade headaches are just a sliver of the greater concern. Toss the continued driver shortage, mounting federal government regulations on truckers, e-commerce growth and continued strong—although waning—U.S. economic conditions into the mix, and we find a nation of shippers attempting to manage a freight transportation network that has never been under more pressure.

Kick off 2019 by giving Burnson’s Outlook a read and then setting aside some time to attend this year’s Webcast. It’s rare that you’ll find such a collection of top market analysts in one place with the opportunity to ask your questions.

“It’s an unprecedented time in freight transportation,” adds Burnson, “with much hanging in the balance. Our panel suggests that it has never been more important to collaborate with carriers and intermediaries and stay steady, strong and focused on practical solutions in the short term.”

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of American Truck Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [ protected]

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