Spot Market Bounces Back After Thanksgiving Slump
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Spot freight volumes fell Thanksgiving week, but they have more than recovered.
Load board operator Truckstop.com reported its overall demand index fell by 12 points to 116.4 as load availability decreased 40.4%. But in the week after Thanksgiving, the index climbed to 122.9 as load availability increased 80.7%.
“Holiday weeks and holiday time off directly affects a transactional market like the spot market,” Brent Hutto, chief relationship officer at Truckstop.com, told Transport Topics. “The big change where you saw the market demand index go down by about 12 points and the daily load volumes go extremely down were just because people took time off.”
Truckstop.com also reported that during the holiday week there was a 34.3% drop in the supply of trucks. So, despite high freight demand in general because of issues such as backlogs, there weren’t as many drivers on the spot market side. The supply of trucks bounced back by 71.2% during the next week.
“We had a daily high point on Thanksgiving week of only 835,000,” Hutto said. “We had one day that was 200,000 loads. That was Thanksgiving Day because people weren’t working for the most part.”
Flatbed led the recovery with load availability increasing 107.8% from the prior week. The one metric that went up during the holiday week was spot rates, which saw a 1.9% increase. Hutto explained that was a natural function of there being a lower supply of trucks creating more competitive rates. Spot rates then fell 0.2% that following week.
“When there are fewer trucks, the rates go up,” Hutto said. “Because a lot of truckers took time off to spend time with their families and their friends, there was less trucks on the road and rates went up. And by the way, that has happened every year.”
DAT Freight & Analytics found the number of spot load posts on its load board network increased 107% after the week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Truck posts increased 35%.
“It’s not usual to see big gains in loads and trucks posted when you compare a full workweek to one with a holiday, but 107% is significant and indicative of the high volume of freight moving in advance of the close of the month,” a DAT spokesperson told TT. “DAT iQ, the company’s analytics group, expects spot truckload rates to soften in the short term but to remain at elevated levels.”
DAT has been seeing around 25% of total truckload freight volume moving on the spot market when 12% to 15% historically is typical. The company also found that in the refrigerated sector there was strong demand for capacity leading up to Thanksgiving that continued in the week after. The reefer linehaul rate has been up year-over-year at about 55 cents in the $3-a-mile range.
“We did have a very healthy bounceback after Thanksgiving,” Avery Vise, vice president of trucking research at FTR, told TT. “Spot volumes were up about 80% last week, which is not tremendously unusual. We frequently see a pretty big boost.
“But I think it’s also important to note that dry van, in particular, is essentially, in the latest week, running at what I would call a record level.”
Vise added that dry van technically was at the third-largest week ever, but it was close to the second highest that occurred at the end of September. Vise noted the largest week was when a spike in volumes occurred in February. But he said that was an unusual situation given that widespread winter weather caused disruptions that led to a lot of spot market freight.
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“There are a couple of interesting things that happened,” Vise said. “One is we did not see, in the refrigerated segment, the typical run-up that we normally see right before Thanksgiving. Normally, the week before Thanksgiving is the strongest week of the year in the spot market for refrigerated and we really didn’t see that.”
Truckstop.com found that during the holiday week refrigerated load availability fell 35.7% and truck availability decreased 18.2%. Vise noted it is difficult to say whether that means anything given refrigerated volumes already have been high. He pointed to a couple of possible explanations such as load volumes being depressed because products didn’t make it to market.
“The other, I think more likely scenario, or at least certainly a part of that,” Vise said, “is that in anticipation of supply chain issues, we may have seen some front-loading of inventory builds that we typically would see much closer to Thanksgiving.”
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