Truckload spot market capacity was ultra-tight last week as the new electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, combined with the approaching Christmas holiday, prompted many drivers to take an extended holiday from the road, consulting firm DAT Solutions LLC said.
DAT, which tracks spot, or non-contract, activity on a weekly basis, said the ratio of loads to trucks hauling dry goods hit an all-time record of 10 loads for every truck. Not surprisingly, spot rates for dry van tractor-trailers hit $2.09 a mile last week, just below an all-time record, DAT said late yesterday.
The rates include the cost of fuel surcharges, which have been rising throughout the year along with the price of diesel fuel. Nationally, the average on-highway price of a gallon of diesel ended 2017 at slightly more than $2.90 a gallon, about 32 cents a gallon above where it began the year, according to weekly data published by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA). Diesel prices vary by region, with California, often the most expensive area because of high state taxes, coming in at $3.53 a gallon, by far the highest of all regions surveyed.
A federal rule requiring that virtually all rigs be equipped with ELDs by Dec. 18 was enough incentive to keep many non-compliant drivers off the roads through the balance of the year, according to Eileen Hart, a DAT spokeswoman. Because Christmas Day fell on a Monday, drivers with ELDs wanted to be home by the preceding Friday, and were reluctant to accept loads that could jeopardize those plans, Hart said.
Adding to the strain on supply was the heightened demand arising from last-minute orders that needed to be moved in the days right before the holiday, DAT said.
The impact of the ELD mandate was most keenly felt in the movement of refrigerated commodities, whose rates spiked by 4 cents a mile from the previous week, while dry van and flatbed rates each rose by just 1 cent per mile, DAT said. Many produce haulers are independent owner-operators who either were still not in compliance with the mandate, or were in the process of transitioning from paper to electronic logs, Hart said.
The timing of the mandate, along with the impending holiday period, likely led all haulers to park their rigs until after New Year's, she said.