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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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FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index improves again in June up two point to 8.8

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The chart shows that the 2019 Shippers Condition Index is considerable higher that for the comparable period in 2018. (Courtesy: FTR)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) rose to a good positive reading in June of 8.8, up two points from the updated May measure.  The June SCI reading is the strongest since February 2016.

Freight-related indicators are mixed, FTR said.

Manufacturing is growing very slowly, and construction is weaker. However, consumer spending remains strong.  Truckload rates are about 7.5% below 2019 with spot rates down nearly 18% whereas less-than-truckload rates have been higher this year.

Both are expected to decline in 2020.   Intermodal rates continue to be soft with rail expecting 5% growth in 2019.

“The relatively weak rate environment for truckload allows it to compete more effectively with intermodal,” said Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR. “Intermodal volumes have been stymied by trade headwinds, changes in rail service offerings, overall rail service levels, and the weak truck market. International and domestic intermodal each struggled in June with weak results.”

The Shippers Conditions Index tracks the changes representing four major conditions in the U.S. full-load freight market. These conditions are: freight demand, freight rates, fleet capacity, and fuel price. The individual metrics are combined into a single index that tracks the market conditions that influence the shippers’ freight transport environment. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. A negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. The index tells you the industry’s health at a glance. In life, running a fever is an indication of a health problem. It may not tell you exactly what’s wrong, but it alerts you to look deeper. Similarly, a reading well below zero on the FTR Trucking Conditions Index warns you of a problem…and readings high above zero spell opportunity. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment. Double digit readings (both up or down) are warning signs for significant operating changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Descartes Systems Group acquires BestTramsport.com for $11.2 million

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BestTransport has been connecting shippers and carriers to streamline transportation processes for more than 15 years. (Courtesy: DESCARTES)

WATERLOO, Ontario — Descartes Systems Group, a global company that unites logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, said it had acquired BestTransport.com Inc. (BestTransport), a cloud-based transportation management system (TMS) provider focused on flatbed-intensive manufacturers and distributors.

BestTransport has been connecting shippers and carriers to streamline transportation processes for more than 15 years.

Shipper and carrier customers leverage BestTransport’s platform to more efficiently manage numerous shipments each year across North America and Europe, according to Andrew Roszko, executive vice president of global sales at Descartes, adding that the company offers a full TMS suite of solutions from contract rate management through to load building, shipment execution and freight payment, with extensive capabilities for flatbed transportation moves.

“Moving goods in the flatbed market requires domain expertise and special equipment, and the associated transportation management processes have some unique characteristics,” Roszko said. “BestTransport has built a great business by creating a platform that addresses these unique characteristics with solutions available for both shippers and carriers.”

“BestTransport, like Descartes, sees the value in creating a common platform for multiple constituents to collaborate and manage the lifecycle of shipments,” said Edward J. Ryan, Descartes’ CEO. “By combining BestTransport’s platform with our Global Logistics Network, we can offer additional solutions to the community, such as Descartes MacroPoint Visibility and Capacity Matching. We welcome the BestTransport team of domain experts and community of customers to Descartes.”

BestTransport is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Descartes acquired BestTransport for $11.2 million, net of working capital, satisfied from Descartes’ existing line of credit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ATA Freight Forecast projects 25.6% increase in tonnage by 2030

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations Wednesday released its latest ATA Freight Transportation Forecast: 2019 to 2030, an annual projection of the state of the freight economy, showing continued growth in the industry.

“America’s trucking industry, and the overall freight transportation industry, are poised to experience strong growth over the next decade as the country’s economy and population grow,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Our annual Freight Forecast is a valuable look at where we are headed so leaders in business and government can make important decisions about investments and policy.”

Among the findings in this year’s Freight Forecast:

  • Overall freight tonnage will grow to 20.6 billion tons in 2030, up 25.6% from 2019’s projection of 16.4 billion tons.
  • Freight industry revenues will increase 53.8% to $1.601 trillion over the next decade.
  • Trucking’s share of total freight tonnage will dip to 68.8% in 2030 from 71.1% this year, even as tonnage grows to 14.2 billion tons in 2030 from 11.7 billion tons.
  • Truckload volume will have an average annual expansion of 1.5% a year through 2024 and 2.1% for 2025-2029.
  • Less than truckload volume will have an average annual expansion of 1.8% through 2024 and 2% for 2025-2020.
  • Private carrier volume will have an average annual expansion of 1.5% percent year through 2024 and 2.2% per year for 2025-2029.
  • In 2019, truckload will handle 71.1% of truck freight volume, LTL 0.9% and private truck 35.1%
  • Trucking and total rail transportation will lose relative market share, even as revenues and tonnage grows, while intermodal rail, air and domestic waterborne transportation will show modest growth and pipeline transportation will experience explosive growth – surging 17.1% in tonnage and 8.6% in revenue over the next decade.

As with any industry, forecasts are in part based on what’s happening with the U.S. economy.

The executive summary of the Freight Forecast notes that the forecast is being released when the U.S.  economy is experiencing some volatility as uncertainties mount.

“Despite prospects for solid trend-like growth in the U.S. in 2019, investor concerns over rising risks of a downturn after 2019, stoked by developments abroad and policy concerns, resulted in sharply worsening financial conditions in late 2018.

“Helped by a dovish pivot in Federal Reserve Board monetary policy, a recovery in financial conditions is now supporting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth above trend. The second estimate of first-quarter 2019 U.S. GDP growth was 3.1%, up from 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and in line with the strong 2.9% economic growth for 2018. The healthy economy in 2018 resulted in a very strong freight market for the year.

“The robust first-quarter pace of 2019 economic growth is expected to be temporary, as it was driven by two sources of strength that could easily reverse later this year: inventory investment and net exports. Both components are volatile and rarely indicative of underlying momentum in the economy.

“Real 2019 GDP growth is expected to moderate beginning in the second quarter, and we look for a 2.7% increase for calendar year 2019. We predict annual real GDP growth will slow further to 2.1% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021, with implications for slower growth in freight transportation demand.

“Freight Forecast clearly lays out why meeting challenges like infrastructure and workforce development are so critical to our industry’s success,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “It belongs on the desk of every decision maker in our industry and in the supply chain.”

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