Truckload Rates 'Firm' Despite Falling Loads

Truckload Rates 'Firm' Despite Falling Loads

Truckload carriers are holding onto rate increases despite a decline in truck tonnage and loads, according to a report from Jefferies Equity Research Americas.

Despite slower load growth, dry van truckload pricing jumped 9.6 percent in March, compared with an 8.1 percent gain from a year ago in February, Jefferies said.

Tonnage was up in March, but growth in truckloads decelerated from a 4.1 percent year-over-year increase in February to 1.7 percent in March, the research firm said.

“We remain impressed with the strength in truckload pricing,” said analyst H. Peter Nesvold. Truckload revenue per mile, net of fuel, was up 6.2 percent in March.

“We think these gains are strongest in the long- and medium-haul portions of the market — not short-haul,” Nesvold said in a May 25 note to investors.

Jefferies said American Trucking Associations data show rates for loads shipped fewer than 500 miles were down 3.9 percent year-over-year in March.

The seasonally adjusted ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index dropped 0.7 percent in April after climbing 1.9 percent in March. Durable goods shipments also declined.

While some analysts argue a looming capacity crunch will drive up rates, Nesvold said sustained price increases will depend more on higher truckload demand.

“Our full-year yield forecast remains plus 1 percent to plus 3 percent” for the truckload industry, he said, versus a consensus in the 3 to 5 percent range.

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc.