Increased farm tractor sales spark flatbed demand

For flatbed and specialized carriers in the agriculture sector, demand continues to improve with April’s tractor and combine retail sales exceeding the average of the last five years by 33%.

“April was the month we were watching to see how this growth trend would look once it hit the official twelve-month mark,” says Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of Ag Services at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “Seeing the larger row-crop units leading the way in segment gains shows the pull rising commodity prices have been having on equipment sales.”

U.S. farm tractor unit sales continue double-digit growth in both the U.S. and Canada after April’s strong farm tractor sales. The U.S. total farm tractor sales is up 22.7% since last April. Compared to the first four months of 2020, sales are up 39% year to date.

The bulk of April’s tractor retail volume were two wheel-drive tractors with less than 40 horsepower. This class accounted for 72% of sales in April. Sales are up 21% this year and 43% YTD.

In the four wheel-drive and self-propelled combine segments, sales are up 12% this year and 9% YTD.

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Note: All rates exclude fuel unless otherwise noted.

Capacity remains tight in the top 10 flatbed markets even though load post volumes dropped by 8% last week. Spot rates jumped another $0.16/mile last week to reach an average of $3.65/mile. In the Mid-South region, which accounts for 16% of weekly volume covering a 300-mile radius around Decatur AL, volumes were down 8% while rates were up $0.12/mile to an average of $3.88/mile.

Spot rates

With spot market load post volumes dropping, it appears flatbed spot rates have definitely crested at a record-high of $2.70/mile. It now appears to be heading down as they did around this time in 2018. Flatbed rates are still $0.90/mile higher than the same week last year and $0.24/mile higher than the same time in 2018.

How to interpret the rate forecast:

  1. Ratecast: DAT’s core forecasting model
  2. Short Term Scenario: Formerly the pessimistic model that focuses on a more near-term historical dataset
  3. Blended Scenario: More heavily weighted towards the longer-term models
  4. Blended Scenario v2: More heavily weighted towards the shorter-term models

> Learn more about rate forecasts from DAT iQ