Photo credits @ Bartosz Wawryszuk

Road freight transportation costs hit all-time high in 2022, reveals latest analysis

Road freight transportation costs in Europe hit an all-time high in 2022, increasing by 13 percent, now stabilizing again, and demand for green road freight increased fivefold in 2022, expected to continue to grow through 2023, according to sennder's European road freight market report.

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Germany-based digital freight forwarder sennder has released its first industry market report on the road freight sector. The report analyses multiple factors that have triggered road freight market volatility in recent years and offers an outlook for 2023.

Thomas Christenson, Chief Operating Officer, sennder said:

“Over the last three years, we navigated the most substantial and unprecedented set of macro-economic shocks to logistics in decades. Driver shortage, record-high fuel prices, supply chain disruptions, war, and inflation spawned market volatility. We anticipate that these macro-economic structural issues will continue into 2023, and have analysed the root of each of these issues in this report.”

Due to record high fuel prices and tightening driver shortage, road freight transport costs increased in 2022 by 13 per cent across Europe. Specific country corridors were much more varied. Costs for Polish outbound routes towards Germany increased by 24 per cent from January to December 2022, despite relatively weak exports throughout the year.

Domestic corridors in Germany, which are typically one of the most capacity-constrained corridors, saw an increase in rate by 18 per cent in 2022.

The Spanish outbound route towards the Netherlands grew by 9 per cent, less than the market average, as Spain’s key agricultural exports suffered from extreme temperatures and drought over the summer.

In 2023 the general cost trend flips, as economic activity has continued to weaken alongside seasonal lows: across Europe, transportation costs have declined in January and February 2023 below January 2022 levels by 4 per cent.

The sennder spot opportunities index reveals that the spot market had a particularly active first half of the year in 2022. Historically tight market conditions and spiking spot rates led carriers across the market to reject contracted loads in favour of more profitable spot loads.

This self-reinforcing cycle meant that more shippers were forced to turn to the spot market, stoking spot opportunities by 7 per cent in May 2022 compared to January 2022.

As the market loosened in the second half of the year, spot opportunities declined by more than 50 per cent and prices reached parity with contract rates in November. While this trend continues at the beginning of 2023, it is hard to predict the outlook given the intrinsic link to the wider economy.

Thomas Christenson, Chief Operating Officer, sennder added:

 “Carriers operate on slim margins, so there is a limit to how much lower spot rates can go. Assuming Europe starts to recover in the second half, relatively large rate increases can be expected as structural weaknesses such as the driver shortage kicks back in and oil prices return to historic trajectories.”

The increased importance shippers place on transport sustainability not least due to tightening policy requirements makes the introduction of green transportation solutions more than a trend. sennder’s own data indicates increasing demand for green transportation solutions. In 2022, the volume of green loads (incl. renewable diesel, electric as well as multimodal transports) shipped through sennder’s platform has increased fivefold. This trend is expected to continue into 2023.

Graham Major-Ex, Director of Green Business & eMobility, sennder said:

 “In the immediate term advanced fuels are an excellent way to reduce carbon emissions without additional capital investment in vehicles or infrastructure. These advanced fuels, like HVO, allow carriers to differentiate themselves and win additional business from shippers who are demanding low carbon solutions. We believe this is a permanent trend. Thinking beyond today, we believe the implementation of electric trucks at scale is right around the corner and the future of heavy road freight logistics.”

As sennder’s industry cohort analysis reveals, shippers producing essential products such as Food & Beverage are expected to hold up better in the current volatile market environment. Historically, durable goods (especially big-ticket items like cars) tend to experience the biggest decline during recessions as consumers feel uncertain about their future spending patterns.

The flipside is these tend to bounce back fastest in the recovery. The speed of China’s emergence from its wave of Covid will be a key determinant of export recovery and supply chain issues, the analysis adds.