Spring might be coming a little early for flatbeds in the Southeast. Heavy equipment and related materials are already moving to construction sites at the end of a mild winter. Despite increasing volume on DAT Load Boards, however, rates slipped lower in the last week of February. Rates typically rise in March, however, so a rebound could be on the way.
Flatbed load-to-truck ratios, a demand indicator that favors truckers when the ratio is high, have been rising throughout February. Nationally, the ratio ended the month at 12.6 loads per truck. Mild winter weather gives the flatbed freight season an early start. Demand has been especially strong in the Southeast, although declining steel shipments led to a reduction in flatbed freight volume coming out of Birmingham, Ala. Outbound volume was also down in Cleveland, Ohio, due to steel’s slump, but Pittsburgh, Pa., was up for the month.
Flatbed rates fell 3 cents last week to a national average of $1.80 per mile. Outbound rates rose in Memphis and Atlanta, but fell in Raleigh, N.C., and Birmingham. Rates were also down in Cleveland and Harrisburg, Pa. In Houston, the largest flatbed market by volume, rates were mostly unchanged, but Dallas outbound rates rose 6 cents per mile.
On the dry van side of the equation, recent anemic rates (last week’s national average was but $1.58 per mile on DAT Load Boards) continued to be the norm, dipping further to $1.54 per mile.
Rail freight volume was up, so the competition might be affecting van rates in some lanes. Outbound rates declined in Los Angeles, Dallas and Columbus, Ohio, but freight rates for loads with Atlanta origins edged up.
The demand picture for vans showed a 3 percent spot market increase for the second week in a row, suggesting good short-term news for rates in coming weeks. Idaho and Arkansas offered high load-to-truck ratios for the week, and Southern Texas is also hot, especially in the areas surrounding McAllen, Laredo and Lubbock. Memphis is a hot market right now, with more than 1,000 load posts per day for vans and a load-to-truck ratio above 3.0.