Freight’s drift toward greater regionalization: Average length of haul on the spot market

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Previously in this series: The not-so-long haul: The operational challenges to owner-ops after the ELD mandate

Spot market data show how dramatically average haul lengths have changed. The numbers below are based on averages calculated from loads compiled in DAT’s RateView service, which aggregates data on freight actually hauled.

Percentages indicate the decline in spot market haul length from the first half of 2012 to the same period in 2018.Percentages indicate the decline in spot market haul length from the first half of 2012 to the same period in 2018.

“There’s been a long-term trend toward shorter hauls, as supply chains adjust to the demands of e-commerce,” says DAT analyst Matt Sullivan. “That’s led to new warehouses and distribution centers that have been organized with fast delivery in mind.”

It’s too early to determine whether those trends may have been accelerated by the ELD mandate. However, it’s notable that average length of haul was the shortest through the entire period in the first half of 2018 in both refrigerated and flatbed segments, and within two miles of the shortest for dry van.

The larger percentage fall for refrigerated, suggests Sullivan and other DAT analysts, might be explained by 2012-’17 drought conditions in California, which increased the importance of Mexico and some U.S. states in the agricultural economy. “Most of the reefer shipments from California are long hauls,” Sullivan notes. California’s droughts “caused many produce buyers to shift to different suppliers, so some produce that was coming from California started getting sourced from Texas and Mexico, coming in through the Texas border.”

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