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Spot market truckload volumes disappoint in May

June “a pivotal month for trucking,” says DAT Solutions.

Spot truckload freight volumes failed to meet expectations in May, said DAT Solutions, which operates the largest truckload freight marketplace in North America.

The number of full-truckload van loads moved on the spot market declined 12% in May compared to April, according to the DAT Truckload Volume Index. Van load counts were down 10% compared to May 2018. Van trailers haul approximately 70% of all truckload freight.

“Simply put, May was a disappointment in terms of load counts,” said DAT Senior Industry Analyst Mark Montague. “We’re accustomed to seeing higher volumes of retail goods, fresh produce, construction materials, and other seasonal spot truckload freight moving through supply chains at this time of year.”

Trade and tornadoes

Uncertainty over trade agreements and slumping imports from China seemed to dampen truckload demand. Record rainfalls, flooding, and tornadoes also hampered freight movements in many parts of the country.

Agriculture producers saw their supply chains disrupted by the weather, with many harvests ruined or delayed. As a result, refrigerated (“reefer”) volumes declined 8.3% month over month and fell 12% year over year.

Flatbed load volume, which includes heavy machinery and construction material, dropped 9.3% month over month and 3.1% year over year.

Photo: DAT Solutions061219 Freight Index-May2019-Spot Market Volume and Rate.png

Freight rates retreat

Spot truckload rates continued to track well below last year’s record levels.

Compared to April, the national average spot van rate was virtually unchanged at $1.80 per mile, including a fuel surcharge. That’s 35 cents below the average for May 2018. The average reefer rate was $2.15 per mile, 1 cent higher than April and 38 cents lower than May 2018. The flatbed rate averaged $2.27 per mile, down 5 cents compared to April and 45 cents lower year over year.

“After a lackluster May, June is shaping up to be a pivotal month for trucking,” Montague said. “We will know soon whether the volumes we expected in May were simply delayed. If so, the pent-up demand could boost seasonal volumes at the close of Q2.”

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