Truckload Rates on Pace for End-of-Year Peak

PORTLAND, Ore. — A mad dash at the end of November pushed truckload pricing higher, and that urgency should make for happy holidays for truckload carriers. Dry and refrigerated (“reefer”) van rates are on track to hit their highest marks of the year in December.

The higher rates come despite month-over-month declines in volumes, according to the DAT Truckload Volume Index, which reflects changes in the actual number of loads hauled each month by spot market providers.

“October still sees the highest volumes, with retail freight heading to brick and mortar stores,” explained Peggy Dorf, Senior Market Analyst with DAT Solutions. “But for e-commerce, those deliveries continue through December and beyond.”

The speed of e-commerce also creates different demands on shippers.

“Consumers expect immediate delivery, and the spot market gives shippers the flexible capacity to fulfill those last-minute orders,” Dorf said, “but that urgency drives rates higher.”.

Van rates averaged $1.82 per mile in November, including fuel surcharges. That was a 2-cent increase compared to the prior month, but 22 cents below the November 2018 average. Volume lost 14 percent for vans month over month, but gained 4.7 percent compared to the prior year.

Reefers collected an average of $2.18 per mile on the spot market in November. That was 7 cents higher than October but 29 cents lower than the November 2018 average. Reefer volume declined only 6.1 percent from October’s peak, but rose 3.4 percent compared to November 2018.

Flatbeds and other open-deck equipment averaged $2.10 per mile in November, a 7-cent drop from the previous month and 32 cents lower than last year. Volume slid 23 percent for flatbeds month over month and 9.5 percent year over year. The flatbed segment has been in decline for much of this year, due to a lull in the oil and gas sector that generates a large portion of freight for open-deck equipment.

“All in all, truckload markets are poised to end 2019 with a bang,” added Dorf. “And with gift card redemptions and returns, that momentum should carry over into the new year.”