Freight Volume Declines Let Up During the First Quarter

TIA’s latest 3PL Market Report points to a tough year ahead but optimism for 2024

ALEXANDRIA, VA (May 24, 2023) — Freight volumes grew a modest 0.5 percent during the first quarter of 2023, halting a streak of quarter-over-quarter declines that begin in 2022. Though the portion of the economy linked to freight is expected to remain weak for the rest of 2023, growth is expected to return in 2024, according to the latest data from the Transportation Intermediaries Association’s 3PL Market Report, First Quarter 2023.

“Data from the first quarter of 2023 indicates the decline in freight volumes we saw at the end of last year has leveled off,” said TIA President and CEO Anne Reinke. “While the freight economy may not grow significantly until 2024, the total economy shows resilience, and our members continue to outperform their non-member peers in key metrics.”

TIA Members saw significant year-over-year declines in shipments, revenue, and invoice amount per shipment during the quarter. These metrics, however, suffered in comparison to an exceptionally strong first quarter of 2022. Quarter-over-quarter drop offs were more modest.

In terms of sector performance, truckload experienced its first quarter-over-quarter decrease in shipments in a year, though shipments for this segment tend to be weaker in the first quarter. Less-than-truckload (LTL) recorded a smaller quarter-over-quarter loss in shipment volumes than in the fourth quarter of 2022. The intermodal sector reported barely any change quarter-over-quarter, owing to low import activity and continued weakness.

“Though conditions remain weakened for the freight economy, the first quarter of 2023 was relatively steady,” said Mark Christos, TIA Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Market Report. “It’s going to be a tricky year, but the strength of TIA members when compared to their peers for metrics like market volume is certainly encouraging.”

TIA’s 3PL Market Report is released on a quarterly basis and uses data collected from 44 participating TIA members to analyze shifts in broker activity, which is largely dominated by the truckload sector. FTR Transportation Intelligence prepared this quarter’s report.

More Takeaways and Trends Include:

  • As of April, payroll employment in for-hire trucking reached an all-time high on a seasonally adjusted basis. Payroll jobs total more than 1.6 million and are nearly 93,000 jobs, or 6.1%, above the pre-pandemic month of February 2020.
  • Net revocations of trucking authority – the number of revocations of operating authority minus the number of reinstatements of authority – reached a record 24,000+ during the first quarter, which was only slightly higher than during the fourth quarter of 2022. That figure dwarfs the pre-pandemic record of nearly 11,300 in the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Though a large number of small carriers continue to fail, the number of new carriers authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is still high by historical standards. The number of new entrants is about 8,000 to 9,000 more per quarter than pre-pandemic.
  • The truck freight market is experiencing a period of relatively high driver capacity. The active driver population is roughly 18 percent higher than it was immediately prior to the pandemic.

The full report “3PL Market Report, First Quarter 2023, Issue 58” is available for free to media upon request.

Please note: The 3PL Market Report is intended for TIA subscribers and the full report is not meant to be reproduced or redistributed by any recipients.

About TIA

The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) is the professional organization of the $214 billion third-party logistics industry. TIA is the only organization exclusively representing transportation intermediaries of all disciplines doing business in domestic and international commerce. TIA is the voice of transportation intermediaries to shippers, carriers, government officials, and international organizations. Learn more about TIA at

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