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Truckload van freight volume falls 3%, rates slip lower

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The chart shows the four-week trend of rates for van, flatbed and reefer segments of the trucking industry. (Courtesy: DAT SOLUTIONS)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Spot truckload freight volume increased 1.2% during the week ending August 11, with the availability of spot reefer and flatbed freight making up for a decline in van loads, said DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest network of load boards.

Nationally, the number of available trucks increased 3.7% compared to the previous week. Average spot rates in August remain below July averages.

National average spot rates through Sunday, August 11, include:

  • Van: $1.81 per mile, 3 cents lower than the July average
  • Flatbed: $2.28 per mile, 5 cents lower than July
  • Reefer: $2.14 per mile, 5 cents lower than July

Van trends

Van volume slipped 3% last week, and 57 of DAT’s top 100 van lanes by volume had lower rates. Among the few positive markets was Buffalo, where van freight volume increased 3% compared to the previous week and the average outbound rate rose 7 cents to $2.08 per mile. Otherwise, spot van volumes have been sliding over the past four weeks, especially in large Southeastern freight hubs:

  • Atlanta, down 8% over four weeks
  • Charlotte, North Carolina down 5%
  • Memphis, Tennessee, down 7%
  • Houston, down 5%

The national average van load-to-truck ratio dropped from 2.2 to 2.1. That’s nearly a full point lower than the August 2018 average.

Reefer trends

Demand for reefer trucks trailed off in California and Texas last week, and the majority of high-traffic reefer lanes paid lower last week. There were early signs of activity shifting northward, as significantly higher volumes from Denver (up 34%) and Grand Rapids, Michigan, (up 71%) helped elevate the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio from 4.2 to 4.3.

While apple harvests won’t kick in strongly until the end of August, demand for trucks sent rates higher on key Midwestern lanes:

  • Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Cleveland surged 62 cents to $3.71 per mile
  • Grand Rapids, Michigam, to Atlanta added 31 cents to $2.59 per mile
  • Chicago to Atlanta rose 20 cents to $2.77 per mile
  • Chicago to Philadelphia was up 16 cents to $3.03 per mile
  • Chicago to Denver increased 13 cents to $2.40 per mile

Key takeaways

  • Fewer reefer loads out of California meant truckload capacity was more available elsewhere. Reefer load volume out of Los Angeles fell 10% last week, Sacramento, California, was down 5%, and Ontario declined 3%.
  • The national average spot van rate is 20% lower year over year, when the average rate was $2.31 per mile.
  • There’s still uncertainty over how shippers will react to shifting tariff deadlines on Chinese imports. So far in August, spot van volumes indicate a lack of urgency to move goods ahead of the Sept. 1 deadline for additional taxes to take effect.

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 dat.com/trendlines and follow @LoadBoards on Twitter.

 

 

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ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage index increases 0.2% in September

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Compared with September 2018, the SA index increased 3.5%. The index is up 4.1% year-to-date compared with the same period last year. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.2% in September after falling 4% in August.

In September, the index equaled 117.6 (2015=100) compared with 117.3 in August.

“This was the first month in 2019 that we did not see a significant increase or decrease in tonnage,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “For the entire third quarter, the index was up 1.2% over the previous quarter and 4.5% from a year earlier, both are nice gains.”

It is important to note that ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight, which is performing significantly better than the plunge in spot market freight this year.

August’s reading was revised down compared with our September press release.

Compared with September 2018, the SA index increased 3.5%. The index is up 4.1% year-to-date compared with the same period last year.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 114.8 in August, 7.5% below the August level (124). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% 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 subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th 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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CMV market trifecta: Sales of used trucks decline m/m, y/y ytd

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September marks the first time since the fall of 2012 that the used truck industry has seen average prices fall month-over-month for three straight months. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Preliminary used Class 8 volumes (same dealer sales) fell 5% month-over-month in September, according to the latest preliminary release of the “State of the Industry: U.S. Classes 3-8 Used Trucks” published by ACT Research.

Additionally, the report indicated that longer-term comparisons yielded a 17% decline compared to September 2018, as well as a year-to-date drop of 19%, the 11th consecutive contraction for both time period comparisons.

Other data released in ACT’s preliminary report included sequential comparisons for September 2019, which showed that average prices and average age fell 3% each, while average miles climbed 5%.

ACT’s Classes 3-8 Used Truck Report provides data on the average selling price, miles, and age based on a sample of industry data. In addition, the report provides the average selling price for top-selling Class 8 models for each of the major truck OEMs – Freightliner (Daimler); Kenworth and Peterbilt (Paccar); International (Navistar); and Volvo and Mack (Volvo). This report is utilized by those throughout the industry, including commercial vehicle dealers to gain a better understanding of the used truck market, especially as it relates to changes in near-term performance.

“September marks the first time since the fall of 2012 that the used truck industry has seen average prices fall month-over-month for three straight months,” said Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research. “September also has the distinction of being the first time since mid-2017 that prices have fallen year-over-year for two consecutive months. From our perspective, there are two factors at work. Demand is falling, as evidenced by lower sales volumes, and supply is on the rise.”

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies.

ACT has scheduled its 62nd seminar for February 11-13, 2020. It will feature trucker, electrification and economic panels, as well as discussions on near-term demand of North American commercial vehicle markets and the pending impact of electrification on the market in the near future.

A commercial vehicle database workshop is also being planned in conjunction with this semi-annual event. Click here for seminar information.

For information about other ACT Research products and services, visit www.actresearch.net.

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At 0.3% dip, September retail sales drop by largest amount in seven months

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The overall economy grew at a 2% annual rate in the April-June quarter with much of that strength coming from a 4.6% surge in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic activity. (© 2019 FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — Retail sales dropped in September by the largest amount in seven months, possibly signaling that rising trade tensions and turbulent markets are having an impact on consumer spending.

Retail sales fell 0.3% last month following a 0.6% gain in August, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the first decline since a 0.5% drop in February.

Retail sales are important to the trucking industry because trucks carry an estimated 75-80% of the merchandise sold at retail outlets.

Consumer spending was strong in the spring and economists had been counting on continued strength to protect the U.S. economy as it is buffeted by the fallout from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

The spending decline in October, which was unexpected, was influenced by special factors including a big 0.7% decline in sales at gasoline stations, a decline that likely reflected falling gas prices during the month.

The overall economy grew at a 2% annual rate in the April-June quarter with much of that strength coming from a 4.6% surge in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic activity.

That spending pace had been expected to slow in the July-September quarter but still remain strong enough to support economic growth near the 2% rate seen in the spring.

But some economists are worried that a slowing global economy and the adverse impact of the U.S.-China trade war could slow overall growth so much that the country could see an increasing risk of a recession ending the current record-long U.S. expansion, which began in June 2009.

“It looks like the trade war has claimed yet another victim, in addition to diminished business confidence and reduced investment spending, … consumers are starting to chicken out,” said Chris Rupkey,  chief financial economist at MUFG in New York.

Many economists said the disappointing retail sales performance would make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in October for a third time this year to buy more insurance against a recession when they meet later this month.

Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said while there were special factors affecting the weak September sales performance, the report contained clear signs that consumption growth is slowing.

He said the report was consistent with his view that the overall economy will continue to slow to a rate of just 1% by the final three months of this year. He said that will prompt the Fed to cut rates again but not until the December meeting.

In addition to the drop in gasoline sales, sales of autos fell 0.9% in September after a solid 1.9% increase in August.

Sales at department stores were down 1.4% while sales at general merchandise stores, which include chain retailers such as Walmart and Target, fell 0.3%.

Sales also dropped at hardware stores, grocery stores and sporting goods stores. Clothing stores, restaurants and health care stores all saw increases.

Sales in a retail control group which focuses on key components that go into computations of GDP were unchanged in September after a 0.3% gain in August.

 

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