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Major retail container ports setting record highs

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WASHINGTON — With retail sales rising and retailers rushing to bring merchandise into the country ahead of proposed new tariffs on products from China, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports have set two new records this summer and are expected to set another this month, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Tariffs on most consumer products have yet to take effect but retailers appear to be getting prepared before that can happen,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “We’re seeing new record levels every month this summer. Much of that is to meet consumer demand as tax reform and a thriving economy drive retail sales, but part of it seems to be concern over what’s to come. The good news for consumers is that avoiding tariffs holds off price increases that will inevitably come if the reckless and misguided trade war is allowed to continue.”
“Global Port Tracker has only marginally downgraded imports for 2018 but we expect to see a larger downturn going into 2019 resulting from the trade war as well as an anticipated slowing of the economy,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “The volatility and non-fact-based decisions coming from Washington have created uncertainty.”
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.85 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 1.6 percent from May and up 7.8 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
July was estimated at 1.88 million TEU, up 4.4 percent year-over-year. August is forecast at 1.91 million TEU, up 4.4 percent; September at 1.82 million TEU, up 2.1 percent; October at 1.88 million, up 4.9 percent; November at 1.81 million TEU, up 2.6 percent, and December at 1.79 million TEU, up 4 percent.
The June number set a new record for the number of containers imported during a single month, beating the previous record of 1.83 million TEU set in August 2017. The July estimate – which is subject to revision when the numbers become final – appeared to take the record higher and August should set yet another record.
While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the record imports mirror strong results seen by retailers this spring and summer that are expected to continue through the remainder of the year. Retail sales as calculated by NRF – excluding automobiles, restaurants and gasoline stations — were up 4.2 percent year-over-year in June and up 4.4 percent on a three-month moving average. NRF is forecasting that total 2018 sales will be up between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent over 2017.
The first half of 2018 totaled 10.3 million TEU, an increase of 5.1 percent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4 million TEU, an increase of 4.4 percent over last year’s record 20.5 million TEU.
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast. The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at www.nrf.com/PortTracker or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members can be found at www.globalporttracker.com.
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Based in Washington, D.C., NRF represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.
Hackett Associates provides consulting, research and advisory services to the international maritime industry, government agencies and international institutions. www.hackettassociates.com

 

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DAT: Spot rates weaken as weather clouds a sunny forecast

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This chart shows that both van and reefer rates were down based on a seven-day average compiled on March 16. (Courtesy: DAT)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Just when spot truckload rates and demand seemed ready for an upward swing, they took another hit last week.

With weather disruptions on vital truck routes in the Midwest and Rockies, van and refrigerated load-to-truck ratios slipped during the week ending March 16, said DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards:

  • Van: 1.6 loads per truck
  • Reefer: 2.9 loads per truck
  • Flatbed: 22 loads per truck

The DAT load-to-truck ratio measures the number of loads moved on the spot market relative to the number of available trucks. National average rates declined as well compared to the previous week:

  • Van: $1.86/mile, down 2 cents
  • Reefer: $2.19/mile, down 2 cents
  • Flatbed: $2.34/mile, unchanged

Van trends

Spot van volumes remain ahead of March 2018 levels but so far this month demand for trucks is no better than it was in February 2019. Capacity is abundant and spot van rates are drifting: On DAT’s top 100 van lanes last week, pricing fell on 53 and rose on 36. Eleven lanes were neutral.

Where Rates Were Up: With freight markets in the Midwest struggling with unusual weather, there was a ripple effect for supply chains. For instance, the challenge of getting freight into Denver last week led to an 18-cent increase in the average rate from Seattle to Salt Lake City ($1.90/mile). On the other hand, the extra West Coast trucks in Salt Lake City caused rates on the lane from there to Stockton, California, to decline.

What to Watch: Expect a boost in flatbed pricing as the demand to move heavy machinery and construction materials into the region picks up. High demand for flatbeds in the coming weeks may cause van availability to tighten on some lanes.

Reefer trends

The national average spot reefer rate has declined in seven of the last eight weeks. On the top 72 reefer lanes, 26 lanes moved up while 43 lanes fell and three were neutral. We’re waiting on California and Florida produce to pull rates higher.

Where Rates Were Up: Sacramento, California, to Salt Lake City jumped 40 cents to $2.35/mile, possibly due to trouble getting into Denver. In the Midwest, two lanes from Grand Rapids, Michigan, rebounded from last week:

  • Grand Rapids to Madison, Wisconsin, increased 22 cents to $2.58/mile
  • Grand Rapids to Atlanta added 21 cents to $2.71/mile

Where Rates Fell: Many of the prior week’s gainers came back to earth, including Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Boston (down 38 cents to $3.81/mile) and Philadelphia to Miami (off 22 cents to $1.96/mile).

DAT Trendlines are generated using 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 $60 billion in freight payments.

DAT load boards average 1.2 million load posts searched per business day.

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

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ACT: Current Class 8 story is big backlogs, slowing orders

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ACT says heavy commercial vehicle markets continue to benefit from key triggers and new technologies, (Courtesy: VOLVO TRUCKS)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — In the release of its Commercial Vehicle Dealer Digest, ACT Research said that recently softer Class 8 orders are attributed to backlogs that are still out about 10 months.

Many of the orders normally booked in the year’s first quarter were actually placed in the rush to get into the queue in the second half of 2018.

The report provides monthly analysis on transportation trends, equipment markets, and the economy.

“The rolling-over of ACT’s dashboard guidance suggests today’s order weakness will transition from ‘too much backlog’ to an equipment supply-freight demand imbalance in the near future,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “That said, heavy commercial vehicle markets continue to benefit from key triggers, including still-strong freight rates (being marked-down from record levels) and new technologies, like better fuel efficiency and safety technologies, as well as increased demand generated in the trailer segment for drop-and-hook to keep drivers moving.”

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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ATA truck tonnage index down 0.2 percent in February

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Despite the February decline, the index was 5.4 percent higher than February 2018. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index was down 0.2 percent in February after increasing 2.5 percent in January. In February, the index equaled 117.4 (2015=100) compared with 117.6 in January.

“After a strong January, I’m pleasantly surprised that the index didn’t fall much last month,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “I continue to expect tonnage to moderate like other indicators, including retail sales, manufacturing activity and housing starts. Additionally, the level of inventories throughout the supply chain have increased, which is a drag on truck freight.”

January’s reading was revised up slightly compared with our February press release.

Compared with February 2018, the SA index increased 5.4 percent, down from January’s 5.8 percent gain. In 2018, the index increased 6.7 percent over 2017, which was the largest annual gain since 1998.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 106.9 in February, 5.7 percent below January’s level (113.3). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2 percent 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 percent 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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