Truck tonnage should remain unusually robust this summer, buoyed by construction and manufacturing activity and resilient consumer confidence, said Mark Montague, industry rate analyst at DAT.
"If your drivers and dispatchers were expecting to take a vacation in the slow season, they might wait until August. Or December," Montague said in DAT's Freight Talk Blog July 3.
In June, the number of van loads to trucks on the spot market was up 26 percent from May, while the reefer load to truck ratio was up 20 percent and flatbed loads to truck were up 14 percent, according to DAT.
By the Fourth of July, trucks were already hauling "Back to School" supplies and other consumer goods to retailers, Montague said, generating demand for van trailer capacity. Harvest seasons kept refrigerated trucks in demand.
"The season hasn't begun yet for corn, potatoes, onions and applies in the Pacific Northwest, Upper Midwest and Northeast," he said.
Poor weather pushed the start date for many construction projects further into the spring and summer, Montague said, extending the construction season perhaps as far as October.
Flatbeds are also sought by energy companies moving heavy equipment to shale oil and gas drilling fields "all over the country," Montague said.
The DAT North American Freight Index showed spot market truck volumes rising 5.6 percent from April to May. The American Trucking Associations For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 2.3 percent in May from April, indicating greater contract business.
Despite stronger than expected freight demand, spot market rates are not rising too rapidly, with van rates in June only rising 2.7 percent, DAT said. The company's load boards handle 68 million freight loads and trucks per year.