Trucking: TransCore reports December spot market freight volumes are strong
January 26, 2012
The spot market in December was very strong, according to data released by TransCore this week.
TransCore said its North American Freight Index for December saw an 11 percent gain on an annual basis and represented the second highest freight volume for the month of December since 2005.
While volume was good on a seasonal basis, December was down 18 percent compared to November, which is consistent with historical patterns. And the 18 percent November to December decline was higher than the ten-year average decline of 14 percent, due in part to November being stronger than usual, according to TransCore.
The firm also reported that truckload freight rates were up annually in December, with dry van rates up 5.5 percent compared to December 2010 and down 0.7 percent compared to November. Reefer rates saw a 4.1 percent bump over December 2010 and were also down 0.7 percent compared to November. And TransCore said that national average rates for flatbeds was up 5.7 percent annually and were flat compared to November.
This annual jump in December’s spot market freight volume matches up well with recent data from the American Trucking Associations, whom reported earlier this week that its seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was up 0.8 percent in December at 116.4 and compared to December 2010’s 107.2 it was up 7.9 percent. The ATA also reported that its seasonally-adjusted truck tonnage index for December checked in at 124.5 (2000=100), for a 6.8 percent increase. December 2011 was up 10.5 percent than December 2010, according to the ATA, and is the single biggest annual monthly gain since July 1998. It also outpaced November’s annual gain of 6.1 percent.
Fairly tight capacity is a major factor in driving spot market volumes, although capacity is not as tight as it was as recently as a few months ago.
And as LM has reported, shippers and carriers alike have said that the spot market is still demanding top dollar rates, as carriers are reluctant to add capacity at a time when the economic recovery appears tenuous, retail sales are flat, unemployment is still high, and gas prices remain higher than they were a year ago at this time, although the gap has been closing in recent weeks.
Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Benjamin Hartford noted in a research note that spot market trends tend to moderate on a seasonal basis, adding that supply and demand dynamics remain relatively balanced into early 2012.
“We expect supply/demand dynamics to remain tight consistent with current expectations for slow demand growth and limited incremental capacity deployment,” wrote Hartford.
This was consistent with comments from both shippers and carriers at last week’s SMC3 Jump Start 2012 conference in Atlanta, with shippers noting that even with less available capacity overall, they are finding enough to move loads.
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