Truckload spot market activity declines for second straight month in August, reports DAT

Spot market data issued this week by Portland, Oregon-based DAT, a subsidiary of Roper Technologies, pointed to a decline in spot market activity for the second month in a row in August.

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Spot market data issued this week by Portland, Oregon-based DAT, a subsidiary of Roper Technologies, pointed to a decline in spot market activity for the second month in a row in August.

In its DAT North American Freight Index, which DAT describes as a monthly indicator of transportation trends, DAT explained that the August decline is due, in large part, to a decline in shipper demand for flatbed equipment, and, to a lesser extent, a seasonal lull in searches for available dry van trailers, which it said is the most common equipment type on the spot truckload market. Despite these factors, DAT said that refrigerated, or reefer, volume hit near-peak levels.

“August was the strongest month this year for the number of loads that moved on the spot market, according to the DAT RateView database,” said DAT pricing analyst Mark Montague in a statement. "However, the volume of loads posted to the DAT load board marketplace actually decreased because 3PLs and freight brokers were able to find trucks more efficiently.”

DAT said that that annual decline in load posting activity is likely to remain intact through September, noting that in September 2017 spot market demand was heightened largely to the extreme supply chain issues resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Key August spot market data points offered up by DAT include:

  • national average spot market rates for the month were off “a few cents” compared to July but were up 20% for all equipment types on an annual basis;
  • the average van rate dropped 13 cents to $2.14 per mile, with DAT citing an increase in available capacity as a factor;
  • the flatbed rate was down 12 cents to $2.64 per mile, due to declining energy and construction activity;
  • the average rate for reefer equipment was down 10 cents to $2.49 per mile, with produce harvests having entered a seasonal transition; and
  • the average spot van rate was up 35 cents annually, with flatbed and reefers up 46 cents and 31 cents, respectively

As previously reported, even with some sequential declines, over all spot market conditions remain in line with the strong rate momentum that has been evident in 2018.

The healthy market is reflective of various ongoing factors, including tight capacity, solid economic demand, and a lack of drivers, among others.

Montague recently said these numbers present a working thesis that things are rolling along with no visible end in sight.

“It is really one of the most remarkable freight periods since deregulation in 1980,” said Montague. “The question is where do you find truck drivers and capacity to restore more equilibrium. How do you get back to that?”

Addressing the tight capacity, Montague said it is important to remember that demand peaks before rates peak, with rates tending to stay up, even as things start to cool off at times, depending on sector. Reefer, he said, is an example of that, as there is now less urgency compared to before July 4.

Montague said earlier this summer that August’s data would be “very telling” in light of recent trade and tariff developments, adding that it remains to be seen if it will slow down the strong market, as there are a lot of domestic drivers like oil and gas and pipeline construction that are doing very well with many projects underway in the southeastern U.S.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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Article Topics

capacity · DAT · rates · Spot Market · Truckload · All Topics
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