DAT Solutions: Post-hurricane, MembersEdge delivers opportunities to help, work

Special to Land Line | Thursday, September 14, 2017

Flooding in Houston. Another hurricane barreling toward Florida. The Labor Day holiday.

There were lots of reasons for a big drop in load posts on DAT MembersEdge during the week ending Sept. 9. Instead, the number of loads was down just 3 percent at a time when 20 percent is more in line with expectations. There’s freight to move and plenty of folks who would be happy to have truckers haul in the essentials.

Truckload capacity tightened: Truck posts were down 15 percent compared to the previous week. That led to higher van and flatbed load-to-truck ratios:

  • Van L/T ratio: 6.6 (up 17 percent)
  • Flatbed L/T ratio: 34.4 (up 29 percent)
  • Reefer L/T ratio: 11.3 (down 2 percent)

Rates, diesel prices rise: The national average price rose 4 cents to $2.80/gallon. Higher fuel prices put some pressure on spot rates:

  • Van: $1.93/mile as a national average, up 3 cents compared to the previous week
  • Flatbed: $2.24/mile, up 4 cents
  • Reefer: $2.18/mile, up 8 cents

These rates include a fuel surcharge but not accessorial fees that compensate the carrier for loading, unloading, layovers and detention.

Van volumes stay strong: Nationally, van load posts declined only 3 percent last week while truck posts lost 17 percent. Reefer volumes dropped 10 percent and truck posts declined 8 percent, while flatbed volumes increased 4 percent nationally. Available flatbed capacity fell 20 percent, which is in line with expectations, given the holiday week.

Texas open for business: A lot of volume that was lost in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey started to come back last week. Houston freight levels are at 88 percent of where they were before the storm—a remarkable figure. Dallas volumes also recovered.

Capacity still finding a balance: Trucks have been delivering relief cargo to the region and leaving empty or sticking around to find a load out. More available trucks in a market means that rates are going to fall, and that’s what we’re seeing on outbound loads from Houston and Dallas, in particular.

About those big rate swings: The sharpest rate declines were in Texas, but that’s compared to a week where intrastate lanes hit the highest prices we’ve ever seen. Elsewhere, outbound reefer rates in Atlanta rose 6 cents to an average of $2.46/mile as freight hubs in the Southeast helped to re-stock markets in Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma that are usually served out of Houston. Demand for reefer trucks out of Dallas led to a 19-cent increase to an average of $2.26/mile.

Flatbed trends: Houston is typically the No. 1 market for flatbed freight, but flatbed demand usually lags a couple of weeks to recover after a big weather event. Vans and reefers have been bringing emergency relief into the storm zone, but flatbeds won’t get deployed until it’s time for construction equipment and materials.

The Irma effect: After Harvey, some shippers began to supply markets ordinarily served by Houston from regional hubs in the Southeast, including Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis. With Irma headed toward Florida, those same distribution centers refocused and moved freight south instead of west. Meanwhile, the Midwest had to supply the Northeast to compensate for the freight that would otherwise arrive from Atlanta. And the Midwestern warehouses were called on to supply Colorado, which is often served by Houston. The pressure intensified even more because of the short workweek.

If you’re taking freight into Florida, remember that it’ll likely be even harder than usual to find loads coming back out. Atlanta and Charlotte are the two major van markets that serve Florida, and outbound rates soared in those markets, but volumes were down. That means the storm threat might have led shippers to cancel or postpone some freight movements instead of expediting them.

Stay safe, and please check the dat.com/blog for updates.

Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on prevailing spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. All reported rates include fuel surcharges. 

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, visit OOIDA’s MyMembersEdge.com load board or tune in to Land Line Now. You can get all of the latest rate information at dat.com/industry-trends/trendlines, comment on the DAT Freight Talk blog, or join us on Facebook. On Twitter you can tweet your questions to us @LoadBoards and have your questions answered by DAT Industry Analyst Mark Montague.

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