Freight markets are withstanding the financial impact of the pandemic better than the economy at large, which will likely require the discovery of a Covid-19 vaccine to sustain a more broad-based recovery, industry analysis firm ACT Research said today.

Until a vaccine can be widely distributed, even the simplest human interactions will have to be weighed and justified, a process that will continue to slow business activity, the Columbus, Indiana-based firm said in its latest “Commercial Vehicle Dealer Digest.”

“Even as the economy struggles to regain its footing post-Covid and pre-vaccine, freight markets have been somewhat less impacted,” Steve Tam, ACT’s vice president, said in a release. “Most freight is related to society’s most basic needs: food, shelter, clothes, transportation. A positive for freight, in the current environment, is that much of the discretionary spending that was ‘experience’ focused, like travel, attending events, and dining in restaurants, has been replaced by goods-based purchases that generate a greater amount of freight per dollar.”

While a degree of “parked capacity”—or idle trucks—is currently weighing down the sales of new Class 8 vehicles, the report found reason for optimism. “Even with that, a case can be made for a steady, if modest, Class 8 market rebound from here,” Tam said. “Based on continued increases in Classes 5-7 build, the OEMs appear to be betting on business and consumer resilience, while trailer forecasts are improving at the margin with accelerated trends in e-commerce boosting LTL demand and a new generation of home cooking driving some gains in multi-temp refrigerated vans.”

In addition, ACT noted “promising” levels of activity in the goods-producing and goods-distribution industries that drive motor freight and logistics, such as manufacturing, construction, and wholesale/retail trade.

Despite that sunny forecast, commercial vehicle sales could still be impacted by different variables than the coronavirus pandemic, ACT said in a separate report released yesterday. “We don’t wish to ignore the other risks in the business environment that are easy to overlook because of the prominence of Covid,” Tam said in ACT’s “Transportation Digest” report. “One obvious threat is the increasingly tense bilateral relationship of the U.S. and China, and another is the outcome of November’s election.”


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