3% slip seen in spot market freight, while van and reefer rates heat up

Spot market load availability slipped by 3.4 percent and equipment capacity tightened by 1.7 percent in the week of September 19-25, compared to the previous week. Freight volume may tick upwards in the last week of September, as shippers accelerate freight movements before the third quarter closes. In 2009 and 2008, spot freight volume increased by an average of 6 percent in the week that included September 30th, and volume increased in the final week of the most recent two quarters of 2010, as well.

Average contract rates for August freight were reported this week, based on actual freight bills from the month’s truckload shipments. Shippers who contracted directly with carriers paid $0.01 per mile more for vans and reefers in August than in July, while flatbed rates held steady. During the same period, broker rates increased for reefers only; flatbed and van rates declined on the spot market in August, compared to July. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) also reported a 3% increase in tonnage hauled by for-hire carriers in August, compared to July. Capacity is tight, according to ATA’s Bob Costello, so the combination of increased demand and fleet reductions may explain the rate increases.

In September to-date, reefer rates are still trending up on the spot market, as are vans, but flatbed rates are continuing to decline. Spot market rates are based on a 30-day rolling average of thousands of rate agreements between brokers and carriers. Because the spot rate information is updated daily, it often foreshadows trends in the shippers’ contract rates.