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DAT Solutions says with fewer loads available, spot rates soften

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Dat solutions says with fewer loads available, spot rates soften
Chart shows the seven-day average spot truckload rate for vans, flatbeds and reefers. (Courtesy: DAT SOLUTIONS)

PORTLAND, Ore. — With most of the country in a heat wave, spot truckload rates wilted during the week ending July 21, said DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest network of load boards.

Load-posting volume on the DAT network slipped 16% while the number of trucks posted rose 3%. National average spot rates were negative compared to the previous week but still within mid-July expectations.

National Average Spot Rates through July 21 were:

  • Van: $1.86/mile, 3 cents lower than the June average
  • Reefer: $2.21/mile, 5 cents lower than June
  • Flatbed: $2.28/mile, 2 cents lower than June

Van trends

For truckers, pricing power slumped in most major markets, including Los Angeles ($2.27/mile, down 4% over the past four weeks) and Atlanta ($2.07/mile, down 5% over four weeks). Rates were higher on just 20 of the DAT Top 100 van lanes, and some of the stronger gains were on lanes where rates are generally low anyway:

  • Columbus, Ohio, to Atlanta, up 10 cents to $1.98/mile
  • Denver to Stockton, Calif., up 11 cents to $1.24/mile

Van volumes are sliding in the Southeast. Houston averaged $1.77/mile, 3 cents lower than the previous week. With Texas oilfield production down, demand for van freight in outlying markets has slowed.

Reefer trends

Reefer volumes and rates continue to fall, with the load-to-truck ratio dropping from 3.8 to 3.2 last week. Volumes increased slightly in the Midwest but not enough to make up for declines in the rest of the country. Rates out of Sacramento, California, and McAllen, Texas, held up better compared to most markets, and two Midwest lanes stood out:

  • Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Des Moines, Iowa, up 35 cents to $2.85/mile
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan, Cleveland, up 15 cents to $3.30/mile

Key takeaways

  • Low volumes and rates are pushing reefer carriers into the spot van market, causing a drag on rates
  • National average rates are still higher than May, a positive sign for the middle of July
  • However, load-posting volume declined sharply at the end of last week; activity could stabilize and rates still may slip further this week

DAT Trendlines is a weekly snapshot of month-to-date national average rates from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. The RateView database is comprised of more than $65 billion in annualized freight payments. DAT load boards average 1.2 million load searches per business day.

For the latest spot market loads and rate information, visit www.dat.com/trendlines and follow @LoadBoards on Twitter.

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Fleet Focus: Fuel economy, maintenance must be considered for used trucks

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used truck with hood up
Equipment pricing must be weighed against fuel economy, anticipated maintenance costs and expected freight rates when considering the purchase of a used truck. (iStock Photo)

Small trucking businesses depend heavily on the used truck market but potential buyers trying to nail down the best choice are trying to hit a moving target. Prices fluctuate depending on economic conditions, freight availability and, increasingly, government mandates for emissions and fuel economy.

For much of 2019, the economy was expected to slow, possibly going into recession. New truck purchases added capacity to the market. Spot freight rates slowed and then began falling, followed by contract rates. Several large carriers shut their doors due to (take your pick) tightening markets, rising costs, mismanagement or malfeasance. In theory, the used truck market should have received an influx of trucks. It did.

According to a report from ACT Research, used truck sales declined by 15% in 2019 compared to 2018. Average prices declined too, by 7%, according to the same report.

“Dealers are reporting used truck sales have slowed and inventory levels are building, particularly with late-model aerodynamic sleepers,” said Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research. “The price depreciation is largely the result of inventories that have grown due to more trades coming to dealers, slowing freight, and the cyclical nature of truck sales.”

While lower used truck prices may be attractive to smaller trucking businesses, including independent contractors, there’s a catch. In an effort to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency, the rules keep changing.

The year 2007 brought a huge change. Drivers and owners of new trucks complained of lost time and expense due to an issue older trucks didn’t have, regeneration of the particulate filter that replaced the muffler. Drivers of older trucks smiled as they passed new equipment sitting on the shoulder for a “regen” or waiting for a tow. 2006 models sold in record numbers as carriers “pre-bought” trucks during the last year the “old” technology would be available. When those trucks hit the used truck market, an event hastened by the recession of 2008, prices dropped due to the large number available.

Then 2010 brought a new set of standards and a product that drivers must have thought was a mechanic’s joke like “blinker fluid” or “muffler bearings.” New trucks were built with Selective Catalytic Reduction technology, necessitating the use of the now-familiar Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). New trucks were more expensive but there was a tradeoff — fuel mileage was expected to improve, and it did.

However, the first phase of EPA standards continued until 2017. Manufacturers achieved more power from smaller engines, made better use of aerodynamic technology and increased use of auto-shift transmissions to get top performance from each vehicle.

While all this was happening, other technological advances increased safety levels. Collision mitigation systems that automatically apply brakes, lane departure warning systems, stability control and other safety features became standard equipment.

Trucks became safer as they became cleaner and more fuel efficient. Purchase prices rose, but increased fuel economy offset the price, according to the non-profit Transport & Environment, an international group that promotes moving to an emissions-free transportation network. According to a January 2018 report from the group, a truck purchased in 2017 cost $2,400 more than one bought in 2011 but provided $8,200 in fuel cost savings over the older model.

That was Phase 1 of the EPA’s plan. Phase 2 started in 2017 and ends in 2027. Another 10% improvement in fuel economy has been mandated, with improvements in emissions also required. In the meantime, advances in alternative fuel vehicles, including electric, will undoubtedly bring further changes to the industry, perhaps making diesel engines
obsolete in the not-so-distant future.

For the used truck shopper, the choices can be overwhelming. Buyers must consider more than simply price and mileage. Purchase price savings for a truck just a year or two older can be swallowed up in increased fuel costs. Plus, some states and metropolitan areas have restrictions on the type of equipment they allow to operate within their jurisdictions.

Large carriers with newer equipment can offer lower freight rates, making competition more difficult for an independent owner with an older truck. Insurers may offer lower rates for trucks equipped with modern safety equipment.

For drivers contemplating a used tractor purchase, research is more important than ever. The best deal available may not be the best decision. Before discussing price with a dealer, it may help to talk to carrier representatives, potential customers or other truckers with similar businesses.

Equipment pricing must be weighed against fuel economy, anticipated maintenance costs and expected freight rates. The advantageous choice could be the newer, more expensive model.

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ATA truck tonnage index rose 0.1% in January, 0.8% higher than January 2019

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Ata truck tonnage index rose 0.1% in january, 0.8% higher than january 2019
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 71.4% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. (iStock photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. – American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.1% in January after rising 0.5% in December. In January the index equaled 117.4 (2015=100), compared with 117.3 in December.

ATA recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision.

“Over the last two months the tonnage index has increased 0.6%, which is obviously good news,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist.

“However, after our annual revision, it is clear that tonnage peaked in July 2019 and, even with the recent gains, is down 1.8% since then,” he continued. “Softness in manufacturing and elevated inventories continue to weigh in on the truck-freight tonnage.”

Compared with January 2019, the SA index rose 0.8%, which was preceded by a 3.1% year-over-year gain in December. In 2019 the index was 3.3% above 2018.

The not-seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 114.6 in January, 1.1% above the December level (113.3). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. (Note: ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight.)

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 71.4% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.49 billion tons of freight in 2018. Motor carriers collected $796.7 billion, or 80.3%, of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership, and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and is subject to change in the final report issued around the fifth day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.

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The Trucker Newspaper – February 15, 2020 – Digital Edition

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