Tight capacity still driving U.S., Canadian trucking industry

| Jun 17, 2014 11:26AM EDT

Spot market freight volumes, as measured by the DAT North American Freight Index, have started to normalize after a harsh winter that drove the index to new heights.

The DAT North American Freight Index stood at 2,194 in May, 2.1 percent lower than it was in April. Even as freight declined month to month, the index was still 39.7 percent higher than it was in May 2013, and it is 53.1 percent higher than it was Jan. 1.

“Spot market freight availability as measured by the DAT North American Freight Index has run high since July 2013 due to various factors including extraordinary weather events, regulatory changes and driver shortages,” DAT said. “May 2014 numbers extend the trend, becoming the eleventh consecutive month to post a year-over-year record high.”

Though the highs are still being recorded, DAT said spot rates are becoming more seasonably appropriate.

DAT’s spot market linehaul rate was $1.49 per mile in May, down 2.6 percent month to month. Again, that number was still markedly higher than it was in 2013, showing a growth of 11.2 percent as compared to May 2013.

Van load-to-truck ratios were down again in May, caused by a 1 percent drop in freight availability and a 7 percent expansion of capacity. The ratio, which shows 2.9 loads to each truck on the road, was 6.9 percent lower than April’s ratio and is a major improvement from the ultra-tight capacity seen in late March.

Although DAT hasn’t released its June numbers, all indications are the trucking industry continues to grind on with tight capacity and rates that are being driven up.

After several weeks of small fluctuations, DAT spot rate averages for dry van, reefer and flatbed all jumped in the first week of June. Reefer spot rates hit a 2014 high, at $2.38 per mile, as did flatbed spot rates, which jumped to $2.44 per mile. Dry van rates rose from $1.98 to $2.05 per mile, the highest weekly average since mid-April.

Contact Corianne Egan at cegan@joc.com and follow her on Twitter: @CEgan_JOC.