Spot market rates for dry van and refrigerated truckload capacity surged during the first week of December as inventory restocking after the Thanksgiving holiday drove up noncontract demand for trucks, according to consultancy DAT Solutions.
From Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, spot rates for dry vans, the most commonly used form of truck equipment, jumped 6 cents, to $1.77 per mile, DAT said in data made available late yesterday. The load-to-truck ratio, which measures the number of dry van loads per available truck, jumped 32 percent, to 2.8 loads per truck, from 2.1 in the prior week.
Last week, van loads posted for booking on DAT's load boards rose 49 percent, about doubling the normal levels for this time of year, which included the first full workweek after the holiday. Truck posts during the December week rose only 11 percent, setting up the surge in prices, according to DAT.
Reefer rates rose 1 cent, to $1.95 per mile, DAT said. Reefer load posts climbed 39 percent, while truck posts increased just 5 percent, DAT said. This led to a load-to-truck ratio of 5.7 loads per truck, about twice what is considered a balanced market at this time of year, DAT said.
Ken Harper, DAT's director of marketing communications, said the last time the spot market reacted like this was in late 2013, as inventories were drawn down around the Thanksgiving period and significant product replenishment ensued. Harper called last week's numbers an "outlier" in what has otherwise been a moribund spot market for virtually all of 2015.
Spot traffic in virtually all of November was ho-hum, in keeping with normal seasonal trends, DAT said; spot market volume fell 15 percent from October's levels, due to a decline in demand for the flatbed equipment generally used to support the building industry. Construction activity slows in large parts of the country at this time of year.
The question at this point, Harper said, is whether the market will experience similar surges in the one to three days leading up to Christmas Day, which this year falls on a Friday.