DAT: Trade turmoil, weather suppressing spot market as usual spring surge fails to materialize

The usual March-through-June surge in the spot market, in which freight demand and rates usually climb, has failed to materialize this year, at least through May.

According to DAT Solutions, van freight — which accounts for about 70% of all truckload freight hauled — declined 12% in May from April. Van volume was also down 10% from the same month last year. DAT  operates one of the nation’s largest freight marketplaces and tracks monthly freight volume via its DAT Freight Index.

“Simply put, May was a disappointment in terms of load counts,” said DAT Senior Industry Analyst Mark Montague. “We’re accustomed to seeing higher volumes of retail goods, fresh produce, construction materials, and other seasonal spot truckload freight moving through supply chains at this time of year.”

DAT blames weather and trade turmoil for the spot market slump. Uncertainty over trade agreements and dropping imports from China seemed to dampen truckload demand, DAT says. Record rainfalls, flooding and tornadoes also hampered freight movements in many parts of the country.

Agriculture producers saw their supply chains disrupted by the weather, with many harvests ruined or delayed. As a result, refrigerated volumes declined 8.3% month over month and fell 12% year over year.

Flatbed load volume, which includes heavy machinery and construction material, dropped 9.3% month over month and 3.1% year over year.

Spot market rates also tracked well below the record level’s seen last spring and early summer, DAT says.