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What is a Truckload Market Cycle? Learn the 7 Stages (with 3 Infographics)

The U.S. truckload market is massive.
It's a nearly $800 billion industry with thousands of shippers and carriers.

It is also extremely fragmented.
97% of trucking companies have less than 20 trucks.

It adds up to a market where carrier supply and shipper demand are constantly shifting. 

But there is a method to the madness.


What Is a Truckload Market Cycle?

Even though it's chaotic, the market actually moves in a reoccurring cycle, going from equilibrium (shipper demand and carrier supply are balanced) to inflation (more freight than trucks) to deflation (more trucks than freight) and back to equilibrium.

A full market cycle typically lasts around 10-12 quarters (two to three years). 

If you understand how the market moves, you can create a better strategy for your business.

Let's walk through the 7 stages of a truckload market cycle. 

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Overview of a Truckload Market Cycle

A market cycle is really just a story of supply and demand in the truckload market.

trucking infographic, supply and demand

Related: Learn the truckload market in 5 infographics


Stages 1 to 3: Equilibrium to Peak

As carrier capacity gets tighter, relative to shipper demand, spot rates start going up.

This is the rise before the fall.

7 stages of a truckload market cycle, 1 to 3


Stages 4 to 7: Deflation, Trough and Return to Equilibrium

Now the overshoot of capacity starts to take effect as the market collapses.

Eventually, rates get low enough for long enough, the market bottoms out and heads back to equilibrium.

7 stages of a truckload market cycle, 4 to 7


Find Out Where We Are in the Current Cycle

Now that you understand how a truckload market cycle works, learn where we are today.

You can measure the market cycle using the Coyote Curve®, our proprietary spot market index, powered by data from over 10,000 daily loads spanning 15 years of transactions.

Ready to get caught up with the freight market?