Flatbed report: March farm tractor sales fall below the 5-year average

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According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), sales of farm tractors and combine harvesters continue to lag the 5-year average by around 10 to 12%, based on the latest numbers. Even though unit sales of 100+ horsepower agricultural tractors increased for the second straight month, up 3.2% year-over-year (y/y), total farm tractor sales were down 12.1% y/y in March. Combine harvester sales fared worse, dropping 23.3% y/y and 20.4% year-to-date (YTD). 

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In the 2WD market, which accounted for 98% of agricultural tractor sales in March, sales dropped 12.2% y/y and 13.4% YTD: 

  • 2WD tractors less than 40 horsepower (HP) were down 15.8% y/y.
  • 2WD tractors 40 HP to 100 HP were down 6.9% y/y.
  • 2WD tractors with more than 100 HP were up 3.2% y/y.

According to AEM Senior Vice President Curt Blades, “Unit sales of 100+ horsepower tractor sales also grew in Canada in March, rising 2.7% compared to 2023. 4-wheel-drive ag tractor unit sales jumped 27.3% compared to last year and are up 10.8% year-to-date in Canada.”

Market watch

All rates cited below exclude fuel surcharges unless otherwise noted.

After surging since the Baltimore bridge collapse, outbound flatbed rates cooled last week, dropping by $0.19/mile to $2.28/mile on a 6% higher volume of loads moved. Further south in Lakeland, FL, loads moved increased by 1% w/w while linehaul rates increased by $0.06/mile to $1.33/mile. Demand for regional flatbed loads to Tallahassee was high last week, driving up linehaul rates by $0.13/mile to $1.67/mile.

In Houston, loads moved dropped 9% w/w while capacity remained tight; rates were up $0.04/mile to $2.33/mile. In Pittsburgh, load volumes dropped 2% w/w, forcing down spot rates by $0.05/mile to $2.58/mile. Carriers were paid an average of $2.18/mile, down $0.03/mile w/w for loads to Rock Island, IL, on an 11% higher volume of loads moved. 

Load-to-Truck Ratio

Flatbed load post volumes continue to fall following last week’s 8% w/w decrease. Volumes are 18% lower than last year and 2% lower than in 2019. Flatbed equipment posts were flat last week, resulting in the load-to-truck ratio decreasing by 7% w/w to 16.12.

Spot rates

After being flat for the last two weeks, flatbed linehaul rates showed renewed strength following last week’s penny-per-mile increase, averaging just over $2.02/mile. The national average is $0.13/mile lower on an 18% higher volume of loads moved than last year, highlighting the excess capacity in the market.

Weekly reports

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