Pre-holiday, end-of-quarter demand boost extends into this week for flats, vans, reefers

| July 07, 2017

Friday last week marked the end of the second quarter, likewise the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, a combination that boosted demand indicators. Shippers wanted freight out the door before the end of June, but trucks were a bit more scarce than usual.

Flatbed freight volume and rates gained some traction in June, after a couple of relatively slow months. Texas had the biggest rebound last week, partly due to a surge of loads leaving Houston, the biggest flatbed freight market in the country by far. National average rates gained 6 cents per mile, to $2.16 including the fuel surcharge.

Hot markets: In addition to Houston, the energy and steel sectors have helped boost the flatbed market in Birmingham, Ala. Memphis has been building flatbed freight volume, too, and St. Louis has been unusually strong in late June.

The national average load-to-truck ratio hit a one-week record of 6.4 van loads per truck on DAT Load Boards. That’s the highest it’s been since at least 2010. The imbalance between demand and capacity added pressure on rates, which rose on 74 of the top 100 van lanes in the U.S. Rates continued to trend up this week, as well. In the past, rates have declined after Independence Day, so the market may quiet down in the next couple of days. Or not. An additional source of rate pressure still looms: Amazon’s Prime Day, with special deals on merchandise and shipping, is coming up on Tuesday, July 11. Other retailers have also announced big sales events this month.

Hot markets: Prices jumped up out of Allentown, Pa., last week, but the Southeast was the hot spot for van freight in June. Outbound rates in Memphis are up 14 percent for the month. Atlanta and Charlotte prices were also up by double-digit percentage points.

Reefer rates rose 10 cents per mile in June compared to May, landing at $2.12, the highest monthly average in almost two years. Load availability was up 30 percent compared to May, too, and 84 percent compared to June 2015.

Hot markets: The biggest changes last week were in California, where reefer freight finally started to move out of Fresno and Sacramento in serious quantities, but outbound load counts fell sharply in Los Angeles and Ontario. Other markets to hit a lull last week included Miami, Twin Falls, Idaho, and Grand Rapids, Mich.. Across the country, 47 of the top 72 reefer lanes had higher rates compared to the previous week. Some of those increases were due to the urgent need to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables to grocery aisles before July 4.

Spot market rates spiked in June

Van and flatbed rates soared to multi-year highs. Reefer rates rose to their strongest point in a year.


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