COVID-19 has catalyzed and accelerated the adoption of technology in industries amenable to digital innovation. Electronic commerce (E-commerce) is a great example of a channel experiencing greater utilization due to consumers reducing visits to the store when possible. Enabling the shift in behavior is the transportation and freight industry, which is experiencing very strong demand. Raymond James estimates that core rates ex-fuel for truck carriers are up 35% year over year (Exhibit 1). With so much product demand being funneled online, capacity is becoming more difficult to locate, driving an acceleration in costs for shippers (Exhibit 2). Spot rates will lead contract rates by six to nine months, so based on current market dynamics, carriers are at the beginning of a positive earnings estimate revision cycle.
Exhibit 1: Historical Dry Van Spot vs. Contractual Rates (ex-Fuel)
Source: Raymond James estimates synthesized by DAT trendlines, Internet Truckstop, Truckloadrate.com
In order to manage more loads, freight brokers are in a race to develop better technology to improve their service. Improved technology is expected to play a major role in the future of freight brokerage. Winners will be first movers with scale that offer seamless desktop and mobile applications, utilizing algorithms and predicative analytics to offer real-time pricing and improved access to capacity. This could be a big source of savings for both shippers and carriers, at a time when the market is experiencing great cost pressure from labor, regulations, and rising insurance premiums. One broker who has already invested in offering a mobile brokerage platform, has reported servicing four million carriers per year and improved load-purchasing rates by 12% for shippers. Adoption of digital freight solutions by carriers is accelerating as they are realizing additional benefits from preemptive load recommendations that reduce empty miles by 16%. As these platforms evolve and grow, the owners of the technology will optimize monetization and gain a high-margin revenue source. This dynamic should allow these companies to earn higher earnings multiples over time.
Exhibit 2: Current Supply Demand Imbalance
Source: ATA, Evercore ISI Research
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