Where the people go, the freight should follow

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If the 40th annual National Mover Study compiled by United Van Lines is any guide, more freight is going to be flowing into South Dakota, Vermont and especially Oregon and those represent the top states more Americans moved into than anywhere else in 2016 – with Oregon a top “inbound” state now for four years.

That’s not all.

Regionally, western and southern states as a group are continuing to see high “inbound” flows, according to United’s data, with northeast states still experiencing what the company dubs a “moving deficit,” with more people leaving versus entering the area.

What do such “moving trends” mean for freight and, more importantly, for trucking?

John Larkin, managing director and head of transportation capital markets research at Stifel Financial Corp., noted last year at roughly the same point in time that continued migration of consumption, and increasingly production, to the southeast, southwest, and western sections of the U.S. – excluding California, except in the case of Silicon Valley – will keep “reshaping transportation and distribution patterns,” likely leading to shifts in truck freight lane balance and equipment availability.

“Motor carriers not dynamically monitoring and adapting their networks to reflect changes in lane balance, equipment utilization rates, empty mile ratios, and pricing could find profitability hurt significantly,” he warned.

Let’s take a look in more detail at United’s specific moving trend findings.

  • South Dakota narrowly overtakes Oregon, which held the top spot for the previous three years, as the nation's "Top Moving Destination." This is the first time South Dakota has held the number one spot.
  • Vermont inched out Oregon for the number two position, with Oregon rounding out the top three.
  • The western U.S. is represented on the high-inbound list by Oregon (67%), Idaho (65%), Washington (58%), Nevada (58%) and Arizona (57%).
  • Of moves to Oregon, the highest ranking western state, a new job or company transfer (53%) and retirement (19%) led the reasons for most inbound moves.
  • The southern states also saw a high number of people moving in with 53% of total moves being inbound. The top reasons for moving south included company transfer/new job, retirement and proximity to family.
  • The Northeast continues to experience a moving deficit with New Jersey (63% outbound), New York (63%) and Connecticut (60%) making the list of top outbound states for the second consecutive year. Pennsylvania (56%) also joined the top outbound list this year.
  • Several states gained approximately the same number of residents as those that left. This list of "balanced" states includes California, New Mexico and Delaware.
  • Delaware appeared on the balanced list for the second consecutive year.

"This year's data clearly reflects retirees' location preferences. We are seeing more retirees than ever decide to relocate, and as a result, new retirement hubs are popping up in Western and Southern states," noted Michael Stoll, an economist and professor in the department of public policy at the University of California in Los Angeles who helped work on United’s moving survey.

"Interestingly enough, these retirees are leaving at such a fast pace that the movement of Millennials to urban areas in the Midwest and Northeast is being overshadowed," he added.

Something to consider as freight strategies get tweaked for 2017.

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