Will spot rates respond to rising demand? | FMCSA extends lease-purchase comments

Trucking news & briefs for March 12, 2024: 

Spot rates situation for wider markets, container drays

According to this week's spot market update from FTR Transportation Intelligence and the Truckstop load board system, total average broker-posted spot rates barely moved during the most recent week, reflecting the trend that's been the name of the game, mostly, in 2024. Outside of weather-related disruptions in January when rates ticked up substantially, spot rates have been largely stagnant. 

According to FTR's analysts, the broad average hasn't varied by more than 6 cents/mile week-to-week during 2024.  

Truckstop/FTR Spot market overview for March 12, 2024The most recent averages in the charts are represented by vertical bars. Lines show year 2023 levels and the five-year average.

Load-post activity last week increased 1.6%, after rising more than 7% during the prior week. Total volume was just shy of 2% below the same 2023 week, and 34% below the five-year average, FTR/Truckstop noted. Truck postings fell signficantly, though, good news for carriers in the spot market. As shown above, the average fall nationwide was 7.7%, marking only the second decrease of the year and the largest since the final, holiday week of 2023.

National average load-truck ratios thus rose significantly, perhaps portending rate increases to follow this week as carriers gain some negotiating leverage with brokers. Flatbed, FTR/Truckstop noted, has consistently led other equipment types when it comes to load-to-truck ratios recently, rising to the highest level since July 2022 in the latest week.

Dry van spot rates resumed their downward trend after a small uptick in the prior week, while refrigerated spot rates increased for the first time since the weather-induced spike in mid-January. Flatbed rates rose by just enough to reverse the small decrease that had occurred the week before. 

As for container haulers, spot dray moves, according to the DrayNow spot booking platform, posted a 6% rise for loads moved through the freight platform last week over the prior week. The average intermodal rate sat at $3.72/mile, the second-highest peak for the year thus far on the platform. 

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DrayNow spot intermodal rates, March 2024"Compared to this time last year, average container spot rates are up 14%," DrayNow reported. The chart above starts with the first week of 2023 and shows ups and down through last week.

Catch a market update informed by the last year's worth of owner-operator performance among ATBS's thousands of clients, among other data, in Overdrive's Partners in Business seminar at MATS next week. More details at this link.

[Related: Groundhog says it's time to prep for early Spring for owner-operator business]

FMCSA extends leasing agreement comment period

In a Federal Register notice set to publish Wednesday, March 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced it is extended the comment period for truck drivers to submit leasing agreements for review by the Truck Leasing Task Force. The task force has an interest most particularly in lease-purchase contracts.  

The agency opened the comment period on Feb. 16, asking for driver input about leasing arrangements they have personally experienced or of which they have knowledge.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association last week petitioned FMCSA for an extension of the comment period to give drivers more time to collect and submit leasing information.

The comment period was set to expire March 18. It is now extended until April 2. Comments can be filed here. The questions FMCSA is asking lessees and lessors to answer can be found in the original Federal Register notice here.

[Related: Truck Leasing Task Force hosting public session at MATS

Utility rolling out Cargobull reefers

Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company announced its Cargobull North America (CBNA) transport refrigeration units (TRUs) are now available throughout North America exclusively on Utility’s signature 3000R reefer trailer via Utility's dealer network. The announcement was made at the ATA Technology & Maintenance Council’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

“After 110 years, and now under the fourth and fifth generations of continuous Bennett family leadership, it’s incredibly exciting for Utility Trailer to continue pushing the envelope of technological innovation, sustainability, and efficiency,” said Mark Glasgow, Utility’s chief of sales. “The positive response since unveiling CBNA TRUs last September has been overwhelming. Our dealers and their customers have eagerly awaited the opportunity to get their hands on these latest and greatest TRU offerings.”

Utility reported the CBNA 625 Hybrid Mono-Temp and 655MT Hybrid Multi-Temp models already meet California’s stringent emission standards for 2030 and comply with California Air Resources Board (CARB) ultra-low-emission TRU (ULETRU) regulations.

Cutting fuel consumption by up to 20%, reducing and, in some circumstances, eliminating emissions while maximizing cooling efficiencies, CBNA TRUs represent a monumental leap forward in TRU technology.

With the Utility TrailerConnect portal and app, advanced telematics data is streamlined directly to industry-standard frontends, fleet operators, and transport management or enterprise resource planning systems, Utility adds. 

Sales and service for 3000R trailers with the 625 and 655MT Hybrid TRUs are now available at more than 125 Utility Trailer dealers across the United States, Mexico and Canada. Additionally, CBNA aftermarket parts are available through Aurora Parts, its exclusive parts distributor, with more than 700 dealers served by six North American distribution centers, Utility added.

[Related: Utility Trailer brings Schmitz Cargobull reefer units to U.S.