Using SONAR to Understand Local Markets and Seasonality

National market trends are good for understanding where we are in any given freight cycle, but they say little about specific markets where companies operate daily or need to plan around in the future. Decisions made here have the highest impact on results, no matter where you are in the cycle. Understanding this, SONAR provides a plethora of tools and insights around both individual market granularities and national trends. Below are a few such tools to help you become your own local market expert.

There are 135 markets in the United States, each with its own seasonalities and realities separate from what we see when viewing overarching national market trends mentioned above. While very few industry players need to worry about all of these markets all the time, taking stock of the national-level information from your own dashboards alongside key market areas (KMAs) can fully empower decision making in an ever-changing market. 

Take one of the biggest markets in the land: Ontario, California. It’s a perennial top-three outbound market in the US due to its proximity to the nearby ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The chart below shows rejection trends for Ontario (OTRI.ONT) since 2019, using the Studies feature to view a Bollinger Band with a normal 20-day moving average inside two standard deviations.

This is a fancy way of seeing how a market is behaving compared to its own recent history. If you look closely at every April–June period, rejections reach or exceed the top range, which creates higher volatility for Ontario. Rejections will then slowly culminate through the fall, yet become less volatile. This is why rates will be higher in the fall while feeling worse in the spring. We see similar trends around the holidays.

As each market contends with its own seasonal events, this is a good way to determine whether a particular trend is normal for a given market during a certain timeframe. 

For comparison, let’s look at Lakeland, Florida, as the patterns will be much different.

Within SONAR, users can use the Display feature to see how today’s rejection levels compare to last year or even a few years prior. The selection below is a four-year seasonality display that includes the full-year view for both markets. For Ontario, the current breakaway looks more meaningful as it has moved 2x higher than 2023 and 17% higher than 2022.

Meanwhile, outbound tender rejections for the Lakeland market continue to bobble around the same range as 2023, heading into an active produce season that typically builds quickly starting in May.

If line charts are too busy or you prefer to see conditions across multiple markets at once, SONAR has a variety of custom tables with the exact values listed and added context of your choosing. Below is a heat map version of a watchlist that contains the current rejection value, the percent change versus last week, 52-week highs and lows, as well as a market share percentage for the two markets discussed thus far.

If all else fails, under SONAR’s Global Pages, the Most Volatile Markets page offers a comprehensive review of all markets at once relative to changes in volatility by volume, rejections, volume balance (headhaul), and/or lead times, complete with maps showing the weekly changes in each category across the country. This page is easily accessible and usable for similar insights relayed above from the first time you log in.

These are just a few of the myriad ways to track insights across the freight environment. You can follow up with a demo or talk with an expert to help pair insights globally down to an individual market or modal level.

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What's the SONAR ROI?

By increasing the number of loaded miles per day your drivers drive by 1% and your rate per mile by $0.03 you will make more per week #WithSONAR.

#WithSONAR you can save up to per week through better bid negotiations and more effective management of your routing guide.

#WithSonar you can add 1 more load per person each day and increase $5 margin per load, earning your company an extra per week.

Disclaimer: Every company’s circumstances are unique. Fixed and variable expenses, market conditions and operational factors vary. Unforeseen events may also affect results. Calculated potential results reflect the consensus expectation of FreightWaves’ experts. Actual results may vary.

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