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Trucking news: TransCore says April spot market is down from March, up year-over-year


May 18, 2011

Following March, which saw the highest spot market truckload volume since March 1996, the April spot market was not as strong, due in part of harsh weather conditions, according to data from TransCore.

The truckload spot market in April was down 14 percent from April but showed a 12 percent annual gain compared to April 2010, said TransCore officials. They added that freight volumes in the South and Midwest regions of the U.S. were impacted most by the weather.

On a sequential basis, TransCore reported that truckload spot market capacity increased by 6.7 percent, while freight availability for dry vans was down 9.5 percent. The firm also noted that reefer capacity was up 3.4 percent, freight availability was down 5.1 percent, and flatbed capacity and freight volumes were down 2.6 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively.

Industry analysts have noted the spot market demand has moderated compared to major increases throughout 2010 and into early 2011, which were due to easy comparisons.

This was highlighted in a recent research note by Jon Langenfeld, transportation analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

“[A] lack of solid normal 2Q seasonal uptick has caused moderation spot truck demand and spot pricing,” wrote Langenfeld. “Industry capacity remains tight given numerous factors (multi-year fleet underinvestment; regulatory constraints; rising costs), contractual pricing will continue to move higher, and spot pricing could quickly given lean inventories.”

And the overall economy now compared to a year ago, when a significant inventory re-build was occurring, also is factoring into trucking market conditions, according to Doug Waggoner, CEO of Echo Global Logistics, a non-asset based freight brokerage company and a provider of technology-enabled transportation and supply chain management services, in a recent interview.

“In the first half of 2010, we saw capacity get real tight as there was a general inventory re-stocking take place, and in the second half of the year that restocking subsided and we settled in on a general economic rate, which is where we are now,” said Waggoner in an interview earlier this year.

This growth rate, said Waggoner, is modest and not taxing transportation capacity. And at the same time, he pointed out it is making all the asset-based transportation carriers more healthy again through things like modest rate hikes in the less-than-truckload (LTL) sector. While on the truckload side, he noted there appears to be modest excess capacity, with carriers practicing discipline by not adding capacity to fleets, as well as underlying themes like overall economic uncertainty, increases in fuel prices, and the outcome of various government regulations like CSA 2010.

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