Steel’s struggles affect flatbed demand

Overall, the manufacturing industry accounts for 67% of ton-miles for motor carriers. Even though manufacturing shipments of durable goods were up 3.5% year over year at the end of January, some industries are struggling to keep up with demand.

“Companies are getting hit by a fresh round of disruption in the U.S. steel industry,” Reuters reported. “Steel is in short supply in the United States and prices are surging.”

Supply chain challenges included the auto and appliance parts and aerospace industries, where parts manufacturers are struggling to procure cold-rolled steel.

According to the Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users, which represents more than 30,000 companies in the manufacturing sector, unfilled orders for steel in the last quarter were at the highest level in five years, while inventories were near a 3.5-year low based on data from the Census Bureau.

For flatbed carriers specializing in steel haulage, shipments are still below last year’s levels, but demand is gradually improving for cars and trucks, appliances, and other steel products. The challenge remains getting furnaces idled during the pandemic back online, Capacity utilization rates at steel mills has increased to 75% but still below the 82% utilization level from last February.

Find flatbed loads and trucks on the largest on-demand freight marketplace in North America.

Load post volumes in the top 10 flatbed markets increased by 20% week over week. Unlike the dry van and reefer sectors, spot rates in the top 10 dropped by $0.05/mile.

The average was dragged down by a massive drop of $0.99/mile in Jackson, MS, the fifth largest load post market, where rates dropped to $2.69/mile.

Capacity eased in Cleveland following a 3% w/w decrease in volume, forcing down spot rates by $0.14/mile.

On the East Coast in Baltimore, which is the largest U.S. port for imported machinery, outbound load post volumes dropped 3% w/w but capacity remained tight, pushing up rates by $0.28/mile to $3.14/mile.