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Trucking Trends: For Clues to June's Cornucopia of Freight,
Look at May

By Mark Montague, DAT Solutions

We're accustomed to seeing van and refrigerated spot market freight volumes pick up in June. That's when retail goods head to stores for the summer and produce shipments are really moving in major markets like California, Texas, the Plains states, and the Southeast.

Sure enough, June has been busting out all over. As I write this mid-month, the national load-to-truck ratio for all equipment types is 11.0, meaning on average there are 11 posted loads on DAT load boards for every posted truck.

That's the highest figure since the week after Memorial Day 2014, when supply chains were still coping with massive disruptions caused by extreme weather earlier in the year.

It's hard to find more favorable conditions for truckers right now. That is, unless you're a refrigerated freight carrier: load-to-truck ratios in fruit and vegetable-growing markets in California, Texas, and the Southeast have been in the 12.0+ range. Rates for spot reefer freight were up sharply as a national average through mid-June, especially in Central and Southern California.

To understand the key to June's jump in demand for available trucks, you have to go back a month earlier, to May.

It was a busy month on the spot truckload market. Compared to April, van freight volume was 16 percent higher in May while posted refrigerated freight volume was up 19 percent. Year over year, van freight posting activity was up 86 percent and reefers up 87 percent.

Spot truckload rates rose, too. The average van

Refrigerated load-to-truck ratios on the spot market were 10.0 or higher in the country's hottest states for fruits and vegetables in May, meaning there were 10 loads for every available truck—a highly favorable condition for truckers. The trend continued into June.

rate in May gained 2 cents to $1.69 per mile compared to April and was up 15 cents year over year. At $2.02 per mile, the reefer rate was 8 cents higher compared to April and up 13 cents compared to May 2016.

Remember, these are snapshots of data over a time frame, and spot market rates can change quickly with market conditions. But it doesn't seem like a stretch to say that reefer carriers should stay busy until at least the Fourth of July, when freight volumes typically begin to taper off until November and December.

In farming, they say you should make hay while the sun shines. A whole lot of truckers are hoping for good weather this summer.

Mark Montague is industry rate analyst for DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT® network of load boards and RateView rate-analysis tool. He has applied his expertise to logistics, rates, and routing for more than 30 years. Mark is based in Portland, Ore. For information, visit www.dat.com.