Why are the shelves still empty? Looking ahead at Q4.

Drivers, Resource, Technology and Innovation

In the early days of the pandemic, our economic forecasts sought to encourage logistics and supply chain professionals who were tasked with making big decisions in the face of uncertainty. Now, a new theme has emerged: decision-making in the face of scarcity. How will supply chain and logistics practitioners navigate high costs, sparse options, and unprecedented backlogs during the most important season of the year for consumers?

Through the many ups and downs of a slew of public health and economic indicators – from case numbers and GDP figures to hospitalization rates and employment trends – consumer spending has by and large stood firm. The will of the American consumer was the one constant in uncertain, chaotic times. Now, those metrics are beginning to show signs of stress. Is that due to broken supply chains, creeping inflation, or waning disposable income? In a world this complex, there are no easy or immediate answers.

Our Q4 2021 Economic Forecast uses several macroeconomic and freight industry indicators to discuss two key themes that will shape freight markets over the next quarter. We expect the inflationary rate environment to persist through Q2 of 2022 – causing elevated freight volumes to contend with stifled truckload capacity for a while longer.

Moreover, the recent Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) rule, along with the passage of President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure legislation, will have impacts on the logistics industry, which may take some time to fully realize.

This is a remarkable time to work in the logistics and supply chain fields. The past several months have sparked a new level of curiosity about the complex realities driving how goods are brought to market. Our work no longer exists behind the scenes; no more is it taken for granted and written off as pure magic. Stories about container ships wedged in canals, repurposed passenger jets carrying commercial cargo, and truck drivers ferrying vaccines here-there-and-yon have elevated supply chains from “commercial minutia” to “cultural curiosity.”

When shelves go empty in one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world, people notice. Any situation that elevates truck drivers and other logistics professionals from regular folks to heroes is an opportunity worth embracing.

Download our Q4 2021 Economic Forecast Update to learn more.



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