Fleet Management

Spot Truckload Freight Rates Jump as Harvey Disrupts Supply Chains

September 06, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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The availability of spot truckload freight increased 2.9% while available trucking capacity fell 4.3% for the week ending Sept. 2, the first full week after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards. This resulted in national average rates rising compared to the previous week.

The biggest rate hike was in the van sector, up 12 cents to $1.90 per mile, its best showing in the past four weeks.

Flatbeds and reefers moved up more modestly, 2 cents and 3 cents, respectively, with flatbeds at an average of $2.20 per mile and reefers not far behind at $2.10 per mile. Both were also at four-week highs.

These rates include a fuel surcharge, but not accessorial fees that compensate the carrier for loading, unloading, layovers, and detention, all of which have likely risen significantly for trucks carrying relief supplies, according to DAT. The rearrangement of supply chains, the difficulty of shipping in the flooded region, and a tightening spot market pushed rates higher on 78 of the top 100 van lanes in the country.

Nationally, van load posts increased 4% and truck posts fell 5% compared to the previous week, to yield a 9% increase in the load-to-truck ratio, from 5.2 to 5.6 loads per truck.

Reefer load posts increased 11% and truck posts declined 4%, which resulted in a 16% increase in the load-to-truck ratio, to 11.6 loads per truck.

Flatbed load posts fell 4% while truck posts dipped 4%. That caused the load-to-truck ratio to increase 0.5%, to 26.7 loads per truck.

Not surprisingly, the spot truckload freight market felt the effects of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath in several ways. The number of available outbound loads from Houston plunged 72% compared to the previous week, when the storm came ashore late on Aug. 25. Despite the loss of volume, the average outbound spot van rate from Houston increased 20% to $2.03 per mile.

Houston-outbound lanes with significant average spot rate changes during the week ending Sept. 2 included:

  • Houston to New Orleans: $3.21 per mile, up 89 cents. Volume on this lane was down 80%
  • Houston to Dallas: $2.57 per mile, up 46 cents. Volume was down 65%
  • Houston to Laredo: $1.76 per mile, up 26 cents
  • Houston to Oklahoma City: $2.19 per mile, up 24 cents

Houston-inbound lanes with significant average spot rate changes during the same period:

  • Dallas to Houston: $4.00 per mile, up $1.60. DAT has never reported anything close to the level on this lane before.
  • Denver to Houston, $1.63 per mile, up 59 cents. This is the largest ever weekly jump on a Denver lane.

According to DAT, The Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations are gathering emergency supplies in warehouses and distribution centers on the outskirts of San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Lafayette, Louisiana, and other metro areas. Many of these emergency relief loads are being handled by freight brokers and 3PLs who are making the loads available on DAT load boards. Rates increased significantly on many lanes heading to those destinations.

In the meantime, a similar situation is likely setting up in Florida with Hurricane Irma expected to arrive over the coming weekend.

Forecasters are calling the storm “catastrophic,” with it likely resulting in far more damage than was caused by Harvey. No matter if it does or not, it’s a sure bet there will be a relief effort in the wake of Irma that will rival, if not beat, what is under way now in Texas.

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