Rate Trend of the Week: Slow Growth, not a Double Dip

Van rates were stable in the seven days ending November 9,but rates for reefers and flatbeds are starting to slip in major markets. Thisis a typical pattern — cold weather sets in, and demand subsides forrefrigerated and open-bed trailers.

Chicago was a bright spot in the past week, with a 1.4%increase in van rates, particularly in the outbound lanes to Atlanta, Coumbusand Philadelphia. Reefer rates increased from Chicago, but the rising ratesfrom Chicago to Dallas were offset by a 2.3% rate decline on the backhaul.

For flatbeds, no major markets showed an overall averageincrease in rates, although a few lanes improved. Rates from Chicago toPhiladelphia, for example, increased 13%. This was probably due to pent-updemand following the early snowstorms of the previous weeks.

Spot market freight volume is also above the historicallevels for this time of year. American Trucking Associations also reportedyear-over-year growth in its most recent For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index(seasonally adjusted), and rail and intermodal freight reports from Stephensand others also show 3% to 4% expansion, year over year.

What does it all mean to you? The spot freight market is avery dynamic sub-segment of the transportation sector, and trends on the spotmarket act as a bellwether for the industry and for the economy as a whole. Wesee it as a positive sign when rates are stable on the spot market –especially for vans — in October and November, a time when you would expect aseasonal decline.

Assembling the big picture in my mind, I add this piece ofthe puzzle to what I see as a continuing pattern of slow growth in thetransportation sector. By extension, these are indications of slow but steadygrowth in the economy. we’ll know more in a few weeks, when we see the firstretail impact of the holiday shopping season. Meanwhile, growth is not as fastas we might prefer, but it’s not a recessionary pattern, either.

For more detailed information on current spot market lane rates and freight movement sign up for TransCore Trendlines.

Monday’s Live Discussion!

I’ll be LIVE on the blog Monday, October 17, at 4:30PM (Pacific) answering your questions on rates and trihauls. If you have a question, feel free to submit it in the comments at the bottom of this post, and I’ll answer it LIVE on the blog, Monday afternoon!

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