The Wheels Just Fell Off: US Trucking Has Not Been This Bad Since The Financial Crisis

Tyler Durden's picture

Earlier this month, we profiled yet another casualty of slumping trade, falling commodity prices, and mediocre, double-adjusted economic “growth”: trucking

More specifically, we highlighted the dramatic November decline in Class 5-8 orders. The numbers for Class 8 - those trucks with a gross weight over 33K pounds and which, you’re reminded, make up the backbone of U.S. trade infrastructure and logistics - were a veritable disaster. 

“Class 8 orders of 16,600 were below our channel check based 22,000-25,000 expectation, dropped 59% yr/yr and 36% from October (vs. the ten-year average 7% decrease in November from October), and was the weakest order month on a seasonally adjusted basis since August 2010,” Wells Fargo exclaimed, before adding that “clearly, November Class 8 orders slowed to weak levels and were beneath expectations.” 

Yes, "clearly":

And a bit more from FTR

FTR has released preliminary data showing November 2015 North American Class 8 truck net orders at 16,475, 59% below a year ago and the lowest level since September 2012.  This was the weakest November order activity since 2009 and was a major disappointment, coming in significantly below expectations.  All of the OEMs, except one, experienced unusually low orders for the month.

“Based on what we were seeing, we thought freight and truck sales would stay strong through the end of 2015 and into 2016, with a downturn beginning at some point in the second half of 2016,” Kenny Vieth, president & senior analyst with ACT Research Co told FleetOwner. "Falling commodity prices means freight is drying up and that is freeing up [truck] capacity. Meanwhile, exporting less means manufactures like Caterpillar can’t sell as many machines overseas, so they start producing less and that reduces freight further," he added.

Well, don't look now, but Morgan Stanley is out with its latest "truck stop" (i.e. a freight transportation update) and the picture is not pretty. Have a look at the following three graphics for the bank's Truckload Freight Index broken down by flatbed, dry van, and reefer:

In short: this is the worst things have been since the crisis.

Importantly, note that the malaise is widespread. That is, you're seeing the same picture in flatbed, refrigerated, and dry van, which would certainly seem to indicate that demand for everything from foodstuffs, to building materials, to merchandise is simply collapsing. Here's a look at survey respondents' appraisal of the current situation and their outlook for demand going forward:

If, as one might suspect, this is a harbinger of what's in store for the economy in 2016, you can expect the Fed hike to be reversed in short order - with QE4 right around the corner.

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JustObserving's picture

Old Yeller will bring on NIRP and QE4 to gain a few more months of time before the free-money addicted markets need another boost.

US debts are so high that the markets can only tolerate ZIRP and NIRP.  As Bernanke said - No rate normalization during my lifetime.

From 1971 until 2015, the Fed Funds rate averaged 5.93 %. It reached an all time high of 20% in March of 1980 and a record low of 0.25% in December of 2008.

Then, the Fed Funds rate stood near zero for 7 years. This fact is not an indicator of economic health. It is an indicator of economic coma.

If everything is a rosy as the financial press says it is, why not raise the Fed Funds Rate to 5% and see what happens?

The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank’s Balance Sheet increased to $4.454 trillion in December 16 from $4.441 trillion last week. Yes. That’s right -- increased.

Wait. What? I thought the quantitative enema was over?

The Federal Reserve’s Balance Sheet reached an all time high of $4.474 trillion in February of 2015 and a record low of $672.444 Billion in January, 2003. The Fed is leveraged at 78 to 1. The ECB is leveraged at over 26 to 1.

yogibear's picture

"Old Yeller will bring on NIRP and QE4"

Of course it is.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) yogibear Dec 30, 2015 8:15 PM

Nobody is buying anything.

I have never seen it this bad.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) bamawatson Dec 30, 2015 9:30 PM

the only ones making money are selling to the 1%.

And the 1% buy real estate but don't live there at all.

So who can sell anything to an absent owner?

It is going to be a crazy crash where I am.

The house I bought in 2011 has doubled in price.

For no real reason.

The only reason I could buy then is because I made friends with the banker

who was Syrian. Not for any reason other than I just liked him.

I talked about the FED and Zionism to him. He massaged my

loan. Because they didn't want to loan self employed people anything, even though I

have been in business for decades.

One day I had to ride in his car to preform a service for one of this bank clients.

He was stopped by a cop and he said after looking at his drivers license said "What is your name?"

even though he was reading his name on the license. It was so creepy, and he was so uncomfortable

during this exchange. He said to me "I have to be careful because I am Syrian." that was 10 yrs ago.

God Bless you, if you read this you smoochie sweetheart.


mkkby's picture

Article is bullshit.  Sales of new trucks were very high last year, so shippers don't need many more.

The roads are jam packed with trucks everywhere you look.  All have cut their diesel bill in half recently.  If you can't make money now, you should take that as a sign to get out.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

I think that the article is factual, but it is harder to see the overall picture. The problem is that it is seen only in snapshots, all taken a seen in a passing glimmer.

"Biggest super cargo container ship ever arrives at the Port of Long Beach."

"One third of cargo containers at west coast ports going back to Asia empty."

"Baltic Dry index on the rocks."

I live by I-10 east of LA, west of Palm Springs. I see how much traffic is going through the CHP truck inspection station and how much railroad traffic is going east and coming west through the San Gorgonio Pass. As you report mkkby, I can confirm, it seems like tractor-trailer traffic is healthy. (with $2.35 a gallon for #2 deisel, yeah, if you'aren't making money you are in the wrong business). But I also see many tractor trailer container railroad cars going west completely empty. This means that we Americans are not shipping shit overseas very much. (At least not along the southern east-west corridor).

With the $USD so strong, it's not a reach to figure out our stuff is pretty pricey elsewhere. I wonder how long the Chinese and Indians will be interested in giving us credit...

KesselRunin12Parsecs's picture
KesselRunin12Parsecs (not verified) Theosebes Goodfellow Dec 31, 2015 8:07 AM

Best video of all time.

silverer's picture

I had a Christmas budget of $9.00.  But I spent way over $16.00.  Doesn't make sense to me, either.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) silverer Dec 30, 2015 8:51 PM

I quit buying gifts when my kid became an adult.

He was the last one I bought for.

I gave up gift buying in the 80s.

It has no meaning to me as Christmas.

I just live regular life on those days and enjoy my shop being closed

It is my vacation, the only one I get since I have no employees.

junction's picture

Looks like it just a matter of time before the Big Banks, looking for liquidity, start again to openly launder billions of dollars of Sinaloa Cartel/Bush Crime Family cocaine/heroin drug money. 

Takeaction2's picture
Takeaction2 (not verified) JustObserving Dec 30, 2015 7:57 PM

Just was listening to a talk show...and this guy is a restaurant financial person and he said he said his phone is ringing off the hook in the Portland, Oregon area with many restaurant owners panicking over the $15 an hour thing and real estate prices sky rocketing...and no good employees.  He says in the next 90 days look for many businesses to close that you would never expect to close.  Especially sit down dining places.  I find that very very interesting.

LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD's picture
LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD (not verified) Takeaction2 Dec 30, 2015 8:15 PM

Bring on the robot waiters (and robot waitresses with big fake boobs).  They don't talk back, don't spit in the customer's food, show up on time, and do their jobs.  These $15/hour areas are fantastic for automation companies and innovation.  Makes me wonder if the leftist morons passing the $15/hour laws are stock holders in automation companies or not.

mkkby's picture

Very few restaurants make anything beyond mediocre, so let them go out of business. 

Why pay $15/hour for unkilled labor?  You don't need servers anyways.  Turn everything into cafeteria style.  Pick up your own food when it's done.  Fill up a cup.  Even a cripple in a wheel chair can do that.  How fucking lazy are you?

FreeShitter's picture

More people better start learning to cook. Fuck eating out anymore. Waste of money.

Magnum's picture

It's really sad what govt has done to the restaurant business. I used to enjoy restaurants, a true hobby to seek out all kinds of different food.  

Locally the govt invented a special restaurant tax recently. Rents are high now too, causing price hikes, and now min wage. Waiters are militant you gotta pay them 20% too.  

Not because I can't afford it, but out of principle I stopped going to restaurants about a year ago.  I still see crowds though.  They might survive without me :)

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) Takeaction2 Dec 30, 2015 8:46 PM

San Fran a room in shared apartment is $1500 per month.

Nobody can find labor now, everyone I know has or is moving out of CA.

Took me 2 hrs just now to drive 30 miles out of the city.

Not cheap to rent out here either.

SF 15 hour won't cut it, more like 30 per hour.

Between the Chinese billionaries parking money and the tech people

it is slated to become an ultra expensive city.

I expect one day you will have to have member card to cross the bridges.

The Merovingian's picture

Janet: Nothing to see here, now move along and BTFD or BTFATH, whichever we decide is good for you. Any more of this questioning of authority and you will find yourself on the next truck for a FEMA reeducation center near you!

Sadly, that is not sarcasm ....

GhostOfDiogenes's picture
GhostOfDiogenes (not verified) Dec 30, 2015 7:41 PM

Why is it, that whenever there is a problem, it seems to be that the crooks on walstreet aren't making enough shekels on betting on some type of industry.

Bankers and economists produce nothing for humanity but pain and evil.

Normalcy Bias's picture

My condolences to the drivers out there. This economy is turning into one big Pickle Park.

For those unfamiliar with trucker slang:

jcdenton's picture

Speaking of trucks ..

And trucks charged with filling shelves with food and whatnot ..

Jack and Jill Completely Lose It

Dragon HAwk's picture

Jack told her he would gladly give her $20 for a dozen eggs and the old lady just laughed at him.  He said “how about $100 for a dozen?”

  ( skip the first 4 paragraphs and get down to the world collapses story it's pretty good, ,  collapse will probably be a lot more brutal but it's a good read )

NoPension's picture

Doom porn!

Haven't perused any lately. Reminds me to do a little restocking.


yogibear's picture

All is fine, trust us.

- Barack Hussein Obama and the Federal Reserve Banksters

atomp's picture

I don't know where these numbers come from, but I80 and I70 looked like a fucking convoy this year, too many trucks to count.

didthatreallyhappen's picture

so, you guys seem to feel you have a finger on the pulse.  


  1. Are you hoarding USD or AG/AU?
  2. When does that hoarding provide life saving payoff
  3. Are you hoarding LT food stuffs
OldPhart's picture

1. Yes

2. When you need it.

3. Yes

Magnum's picture

It's very strange to think about the effect of Amazon taking over a massive part of the entire US trucking/distribution sector.  Things have really changed in just the last two years.  It may come to pass that far fewer 18 wheelers haul loads cross country, but not due to an increase in efficiency -- only "perceived" efficiency.  People have decided that Amazon is the greatest deal for everything but the fact is, shop around and Amazon is almost always more expensive than other websites, and it's a big waste for many reasons.  In any case, minds are made up! Amazon will keep digging into our wallets for things boxed up and delivered via USMail, UPS and Fedex.  Amazon will dictate how things get to their big stupid distribution centers, and most products formerly moved on long haul trucks will be under the thumb of Jeff Bezzos.

Dragon HAwk's picture

yeah small package freight.. one big profit center, but not for you you pay the bill.

texas sandman's picture

Because of hours of service rules and the electronic log mandate long haul trucking will be done primarily by team drivers.  Solo drivers are more and more limited to regional work, which actually helps get drivers home more often.  The problem is finding teams that can last with each other.  Husband/wife teams work best (wife and I did it for 11 years), but are hard to find.


The problem with new truck sales is not simply freight volumes, but also the lower rates which make new equipment virtually unaffordable.  A nicely equipped emissions equipped long haul tractor can easily hit $160,000.  On the other hand, our Freightliner dealer in Clear Lake, Iowa (and 2 other locations) sells out 1200 build slots (per year) of glider kit trucks easily.  


A glider comes from the factory without an engine and transmission, and the emissions requirements are based on the build year of the engine.  You not only dump the EGR valve, particulate filter and exhaust fluid, you get the same truck for $25-30,000 less.  Add to the initial savings reduced maintenance on emissions crapola, and if you're not planning on going to California it's a no brainer.


All that being said, in 25 years I've never seen freight fall off a cliff across all trailer types like it has now.  It started getting bad back in August, and I see no light at the end of this tunnel.

Al Tinfoil's picture

USMail, UPS, and FedEx all move packages by truck.  All of these use trucks for picking up packages and envelopes from drop-off points.  FedEx Express flies packages and envelopes from airport to airport, but distribution then takes place by tuck.  FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and UPS carry envelopes, packages and palletized frieght by highway trucks.  

If Amazon gets its drone delivery system off the ground (pardon the pun), it could replace distribution of small items over short distances now done by delivery van, but would not replace long-haul carriage.

sun tzu's picture

I find things at walmart and ebay much cheaper than amazon

Barnaby's picture

I hate truckers and everything they stand for. So fuck 'em. That goes double for all the meat-eating truckers, so basically all of 'em

Fuck you, truckers, I hope you live homelessly forever you resource-wasting, meat-eating, lane-hogging fartknockers. Also, you smell bad despite your prevalent interstate showers, but you'd expect that from an American meat-eater swimming in his own unwashed buttfilth.

There is nothing you bring to me. I am dependent on you for nothing. Fuck you and your families into 2019 and beyond.

R19's picture

Lame post of the year.  Thought it couldn't be topped, but you just took it.  YAY!

- Trucks inefficient. - YAY!

- Truck drivers are bad drivers. - YAY!

- You don't eat meat. - YAY!

- Is your Uber late to pick you up to your next communist party meeting?  - YAY!

Barnaby's picture

Nice edits, douchebag!

Temporalist's picture

Don't be so mean to Barnaby.  You too would be upset if you had a truck like poor old Barnaby here:

Al Tinfoil's picture

It is interesting to ponder what type of lifestyle would make one completely independent of trucks.  Most goods are produced in facilities supplied by trucks, then the goods are carried to distribution centres, then carried to stores, and then carried to their ultimate destination by truck or car.  Goods and energy supplies that come by pipeline or via electrical grid depend upon trucks for their construction and maintenance.  Energy production facilities depend upon trucks for their construction and maintenance, even if the bulk of their fuel comes by pipeline or train.  Railways depend upon trucks directly and indirectly for their construction and maintenance, and trucks are used by the industries that procuce their rails, rolling stock, and roadbed construction materials.  Railway employees get to work (like most employees) via conveyances dependant upon trucks directly or indirectly for maintenance and delivery of fuel.

The vast bulk of our food production and distribution depends overwhelmingly upon petroleum.  It is estimated that 10 calories of diesel energy is consumed in the production of 1 calorie of food energy.  Looking at a few videos on YouTube of modern farming with large machines and vast acreages illustrates this.  Then the harvest is delivered via trucks to processing centres, then ultimately to our supermarkets via truck.  

Clothing, furniture, carpets, paint, all types of building materials, household chemicals, soap and personal hygiene products, household appliances, tools or our trades and hobbies, cooking supplies, books, pens and paper, automobiles and parts, gasoline, diesel, propane, matches, charcoal and charcoal lighters, all types of weapons and ammunition, bows, arrows, crossbows, and health supplies all travel by truck in at least part of their journey from production facility to home, office or factory.  

So, how could one live completely independently of trucks?  

1. Grow your own food with tools produced by hand (using steel or other metals not smelted by yourself is fooling yourself, because these all depended upon trucks and modern manufacturing at some point).  No mechanized plowing, planting, or harvesting.  Depend upon horses or oxen for motive power. Use no chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Learn to store enough food each Fall to last you and yours through to the next harvesting season.  Identify and learn how to harvest natural food sources, and stay away from mushrooms and berries that you cannot identify as harmless.  Obtain the necessary farm animals and learn how to feed, train, and husband them, and treat them for diseases.

2. Set up by a reliable stream with clean water, or dig your own well at a place that provides sufficient clean water.  Obtain water from the stream or well by bucket or hand-operated pump. Metal pipes are out.

3. Use wind and water for power (again, only using facilities produced by hand from materials available from mother nature - no nails, screws, bolts, metal axles, no copper or aluminum wiring for generators, no modern light bulbs or resistance heaters for electric stoves).  Steam power would require metals and hence depends upon manufacturing or upon finding previously-manufactured articles which probably depended upon trucks in their manufacturing and distribution.  Coal oil lamps and wax candles are out, since each depends upon truck-dependent production.  Lamps could be run on vegetable oils or animal fats.  Expect to go to bed at nightfall, and get up at dawn.  Forget television, videos, movies, and all-night parties.  

4. Home heat?  Wood is an obvious source if your have forest or brush available, but is labor intensive, particularly if nothing that came by truck is used in the harvesting and delivery.  Chain saws and metal-bladed hand saws came from the truck-dependent society.  Chain saws also require lubricants and fuel delivered by truck.  Look for local coal outcrops so you can get coal.   

5.  Weave your own clothing from your own crops of flax or cotton, use wool sheared by hand from sheep, or wear animal skins, or go naked if that is your fancy.  Use animal fat and charcoal for protection of your skin from insects and sun damage.

6. Make your own soap from wood ash and animal fat.  Flavour with pine tar or other natural items.

7. Pharmaceuticals?  Manufacture your own from herbs and other plants.  

8. Information?  Using the internet is cheating - falling back upon a modern convenience provided by the truck-dependent society and the truck-dependent power grid.  Fall back upon books and word of mouth.  Educate your children by yourself, since travel by school bus makes your family dependent upon the truck-dependent society.

9.  Build a house?  From logs, or stone, perhaps, but not from modern lumber and building supplies.  Use straw, dirt, or clay for insulation and caulking.  Or find or dig a cave (without metal tools or machinery) and decorate it to satisfy your Mrs. (good luck).  Windows?  Glass comes by truck from truck-served and energy-intensive factories, ditto plastic.  Windows made from animal hides scraped thin or from oiled paper made from your own paper-making efforts could substitute. Or ,make your own glass if you know how and are sufficiently skilled to do so. Hinges?  Carve them from wood or use leather.

10. Personal conveyance?  Cars, pickup trucks, buses, trains, and aircraft all depend upon trucks.   You could walk, or ride a horse, or ride in a horse or ox-pulled wagon (wooden axles of course).

11.  Shoes and boots?  Make your own from leather you tanned yourself or trade for them from someone who produces them by hand from hand-tanned leather.  Go barefoot whenever possible to save upon shoes.

12.  For any metal supplies you need, find your own sources of ores and smelt them yourself, or trade with someone who obtains them by the same means.

13.  Household appliances?  Buckets, washtubs, and barrels can be made from wood.  If you are sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable, you might be able to make your own glass and form bottles and other containers from it.  Locate sources of suitable clays and make your own ceramic items.  Make your own stove and fireplace from stone and clay, use wood or coal (if you can find a local source) for fuel.  Forget about all electrical appliances.

14.  Dental and medical supplies and services are all enabled by or delivered by truck at some point, so fall back upon folk dentistry and medicine.  Life expectancy will fall sharply, but that is inevitable if you retreat from modern society.  Learn how to pull rotted teeth, set dislocated joints, splint broken bones, sterilize and bind wounds, and how to carve false teeth.  

15.  Sickness and disability?  Unless you have a large family or belong to a sufficiently large and caring tribe, you will die unless you are capable of looking after yourself.  Unless someone is available to deal with simple operations such as appendectomies, expect most who get appendicitis to die painful deaths.  Bacterial infections can be lethal, so expect to suffer the same death rates from bacterial infections as society suffered before antibiotics and other modern health measures were available.  

16. Protection from thieves and murders?  Learn to make and use bows, arrows, spears, clubs, crossbows, and David's Slings.  All modern weapons and ammunition came by truck, so they are not available.  

17.  Disasters like house fires, forest fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, crop failures, plagues, war, trespassers, kidnappings, animal attacks, etc.?  You're on your own.  Good Luck - you will need it.  Keep barrels under the eaves of your roof to catch rain water - for multiple purposes including fire-fighting.  A family grouping or tribe is invaluable here for having sufficient extra labor to allow the posting of lookouts and guards.  Living alone means that there is no one available to help you in most circumstances.

In other words, expect to live like primitive hunter-gatherers except to the extent that you are able to improve your lifestyle by hand agriculture and such crafts as you are able to practise yourself.  Learn fast, work hard, be prepared as much as you can, and do not expect to have any holidays from labor.  Live without pensions and EBT cards, without outside sources of food, medicine, and household supplies.  Join with others for your collective comfort and security.

Or you could retreat from the cash economy as much as possible, take advantage of what the modern society makes available to you and that you can afford to buy, and pretend that you are "independent" from trucks and modern society.  This is the Amish approach, as I understand it.  But you will need money to pay land taxes and to pay for whatever other money purchases you make.  And you are fooling yourself if you think that you are truly "independent" of the grids, services, and supplies of modern society.

surf0766's picture

Slap that communist pig vomit down !

Normalcy Bias's picture

You sound like you got F'd in the 'A' by some sicko who also happened to be a truck driver. If not, please start taking your meds again.

Barnaby's picture

Hey I'm venting in an obviously dead thread. So go take your own meds.

edit: Also, if you're a meat-eater, fuck you and your entire fucking horrible family.

Normalcy Bias's picture

LOL! You ARE a PSYCHO! HAHA! Hilarious...

Bi-Polar Vegan, I'm guessing?

Normalcy Bias's picture

Well, I got the psycho part right, right? Dude, 99.99% of the people in America would be FUCKED if it weren't for truckers. If not you directly, the absence would create unrest that WOULD affect you. Think about it.

Barnaby's picture

Thank you for your considered reply.

I think if we lived more conscientiously, instead of wanting strawberries in February, we would all be happier. The trucker would too, as he might have a chance to wash his ass.

I farm. When it's winter, I make a choice between energy and value: can I grow my vegetables and grains or have I stored enough already?

Normalcy Bias's picture

You are a piece of work. I like you.


Easy on the granola, eh. Why not have a good n' yummy hamburger or a nice yummy steak with animal fat sauce n' bacon bits?


I had Roast Beast for Christmas this year with beef stuffing instead of pork.

OldPhart's picture

Yes, I am, proudly so.  I'm rather popular with the ladies.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

This is what happens when you consume soy. Total synaptic melt down resulting in irrationality and man boobs.