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DAT Truckload Volume Index: Volume and rates slip seasonally in April

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The chart shows the van volume has remained fairly consistent over the past year while, after peaking in June 2018, van rates have steadily declined. (Courtesy: DAT SOLUTIONS)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Spot market truckload freight continued two trends in April that have been a recurring theme in 2019: strong volumes and abundant capacity.

Volumes for dry van freight — the most common semi-trailer type — increased 2.4 percent in April 2019 compared to April 2018, according to DAT Solutions, operator of the largest truckload freight marketplace in North America. Some spot market service providers are growing rapidly this year, and that growth offsets losses in other sectors. Despite the sustained volume, the national average spot van rate fell 35 cents per mile year over year due to readily available truckload capacity.

Month-over-month trends followed a familiar seasonal pattern. The DAT Truckload Freight Volume Index declined 5% for van freight in April compared to March, and the national average spot rate of $1.81 per mile was 4 cents lower. These seasonal declines mirror three of the past five years.

“Spring came late to the spot market this year,” said DAT Senior Industry Analyst Mark Montague. “Late-season snowstorms in Minnesota and Colorado, as well as flood-related damage in and around Nebraska, led to delays in truck and rail traffic.”

A delay in spring produce also contributed to a decline in demand for refrigerated equipment, with refrigerated volumes down 11 percent in April compared to March. That’s not a typical seasonal trend for April, and the volume shortfall was accompanied by a 2-cent drop in the average spot rate for reefer freight, to $2.15 per mile. On a year-over-year basis, reefer volume slipped 2.9 percent, and the national average rate dropped 28 cents per mile.

Flatbed load volume remained strong in April, losing only 0.9 percent, as rates edged down by 1 cent compared to March, to $2.33 per mile. Year over year, flatbeds hauled 9.1 percent more loads for 31 cents less per mile.

“Overall freight availability remained high in April compared to recent years, despite the small seasonal decline,” Montague said. “As we head into peak season for spot market freight, we expect regional capacity shortages to emerge and boost rates higher through the end of the second quarter.”

The DAT Truckload Freight Volume Index is based on load counts and per-mile rates recorded in DAT RateView, with an average of 3 million freight moves per month. Spot market information is based on transactions arranged by third-party logistics (3PL) companies, while contract volumes and rates are arranged between shippers and carriers, with no intermediary.

 

 

 

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ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index surges 7.4% in April

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Compared with April 2018, the SA index increased 7.7%, the largest year-over-year gain since July. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index surged 7.4% in April after decreasing 2% in March. In April, the index equaled 121.8 (2015=100) compared with 113.4 in March.

“The surge in truck tonnage in April is obviously good for trucking, but it is important to examine it in the context of the broader economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “February and March were particularly weak months, as evidenced by the 3.5% dip in tonnage due to weather and other factors, so some of the gain was a catch-up effect. In addition, the Easter holiday was later than usual, likely pushing freight that would ordinarily be moved in March into April.

“I do not think the fundamentals underlying truck tonnage are as strong as April’s figure would indicate, but this may signal that any fears of a looming freight recession may have been overblown,” he said.

March’s reading was revised up compared with our April press release.

Compared with April 2018, the SA index increased 7.7%, the largest year-over-year gain since July.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 117.7 in April, 1% above March level (116.6). 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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ACT says trailer order volume soft in second straight month

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This chart compares trailer order volume for three years. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — ACT Research’s preliminary estimate for April 2019 net trailer orders is 14,500 units.

Final volume will be available later this month. ACT’s methodology allows the company to generate a preliminary estimate of the market that should be within +/- 3% of the final order tally.

“Order volume was soft in April for the second straight month. Several factors appear to be in play. OEMs continue to be reticent to fully open 2020 orderboards. This is evident in our measurement of the extent of the industry’s backlog, which has remained in the November or December timeframe throughout the first four months of 2019,” said Frank Maly, ACT’s director of CV transportation analysis and research. “While we hear comments of some fleets anxiously awaiting the chance to snap up 2020 build slots, some also appear to be evaluating their existing commitments. Cancellations in April were the highest since August 2016 on both a unit and percent of backlog basis, and have remained elevated since December. That resulted in an interesting dichotomy in April orders; while new orders were actually up versus March, cancellations were significant enough to pull the net order number into the red month-over-month.”

Maly said while down slightly from March, production continues at a brisk pace, although material/component availability and staffing continue to challenge OEMs. Seasonal patterns actually called for a slight increase for April production, so that small sequential decline likely confirms the impact of the aforementioned headwinds.

“Additionally, our discussions indicate that red-tagged units continue to challenge OEM production efficiency,” he said.

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American 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.

More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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Price of diesel inches up three-tenths of a penny

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Overall, the price for the week ending was down 11.4 cents a gallon lower than last year.

WASHINGTON — The average on-highway price of a gallon of diesel increased three-tenths of one cent to $3.163 for the week ending May 20, according to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

The increase was precipitated by a 1.1-cent increase in the Rocky Mountain states (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana) and a 1-center increase in the Central Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland).

The largest decrease was five-tenths of a penny in the Lower Atlantic states (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia).

Two regions remained the same as last week.

Overall, the price is down 11.4 cents a gallon lower than last year.

For a complete list of prices by region for the past three weeks, click here.

 

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