Overall Canadian spot market load volumes on Loadlink were down just 4% in a volatile 2020, while December load volumes dropped 8% from November.
Loadlink Technologies said further Covid-related shutdowns could explain the sharp decline from November, with loads down just 1% compared to December 2019.
Highlights from 2020 included: March having the highest month for freight volumes since June 2018, as retailers rushed to restock supplies; the onset of Covid-19 eliminated more than 50% of freight volumes in April and May; the recovery began in earnest in June, with a 42% spike in loads from May; and from April to November, monthly load volumes increased for seven straight months.
December load volumes started strong, with a 10% jump in loads during the first week compared to the week before. However, volumes fell off over the holidays.
For the third straight month, outbound cross-border loads were down, by 13% from November and 24% year-over-year. This was especially felt in Quebec, with a 23% decrease in southbound loads.
Inbound loads from the U.S. improved, up 3% from November and 23% year-over-year. Western Canada saw the strongest growth, with a 10% boost in loads originating from the U.S. compared to November.
Intra-Canada freight was down 15% from November, but truck postings were too, which helped negate the impact on carriers. All provinces saw a decline in domestic load postings, averaging around 15%.
Capacity tightened in December, with 2.89 trucks posted per load, compared to 2.98 in November. This marked the tightest capacity on Loadlink since March, prior to the onset of the pandemic. Compared to December 2019 the truck-to-load ratio was up 4%.
Looking back at the full year, Loadlink observed a strong start to the year reflecting volumes not seen since 2017. Covid interrupted that and sent volumes plummeting to levels not seen since the Great Recession.
By the third quarter, volumes had returned to numbers resembling the 2019 norm, Loadlink Technologies reports.
As for 2021, early load volumes show a return to normal, but are below levels from the first half of last December. Provincial lockdown measures may keep freight demand supressed in the short-term, the company says.
“Hot freight activity in the U.S. market has trickled over to the Canadian spot market as inbound cross-border activity has been heated and growing steadily the past few months,” the company said in a forecast. “With Canadian ELD mandates set to take place mid-year, 2021 will have a lot to improve upon from 2020 as truck availability may take a hit while loads recover further into the year.”