DAT SOLUTIONS: Hurricane Michael dampens demand on the spot market

October 17, 2018

Special to Land Line


The sudden rise of Hurricane Michael had a dampening effect on freight movement in the Southeast last week and contributed to a 13 percent drop in load posts on DAT MembersEdge overall.

With weaker demand and the number of available trucks up 2 percent for the week ending Oct. 13, national average load-to-truck ratios plunged for all three equipment types.

  • Vans: 4.7 loads per truck, down 16 percent.
  • Flatbeds: 18.3, down 17 percent.
  • Reefers: 6.3, down 9 percent.

National average spot truckload rates fell as well.

  • Vans: $2.13 per mile, down 4 cents.
  • Flatbeds: $2.51 per mile, down 2 cents.
  • Reefers: $2.46 per mile, down 6 cents.

Let’s look at the Trendlines.

Not like the others
With Hurricane Florence, the advanced warning allowed businesses to plan ahead, reschedule shipments and reposition trucks. Hurricane Michael, on the other hand, went from a tropical depression to a Category 4 storm in just two days, catching many people and businesses off guard. Road closures halted shipments on major truck routes like I-10 between Houston, New Orleans and Jacksonville, and I-75 from Florida to Atlanta.

Pressure at the pump
The national average van rate fell 4 cents to $2.13 per mile compared to the previous week. That’s an “all-in” rate – a linehaul rate plus a calculated fuel surcharge. The national average price of on-highway diesel rose another penny last week to $3.39 per gallon, which helped push the surcharge portion up 2 cents to 36 cents per mile.

Van markets down
Average spot truckload rates fell on 70 of the top 100 van lanes on DAT MembersEdge. Notably, average spot prices out of Atlanta ($2.32 per mile) and Charlotte ($2.45 per mile) were neutral despite all the canceled shipments from there to Florida.
DAT spot reefer/truck ratio chart
Reefer trends
Van rates have been relatively stabilize in recent months as the industry adapts to the ELD mandate and compromised productivity. That hasn’t been the case yet for reefer freight: many lanes are still seeing volatile price changes from week to week.

Hot markets
With Hurricane Michael approaching swiftly, shippers, brokers, and truckers in the Southeast rushed to get reefer freight out ahead of the storm. Volumes were up 48 percent out of Lakeland, Fla., and rates rose 5 percent. Key lanes:

  • Atlanta to Miami was up 17 cents to $3.07 per mile.
  • Green Bay to Wilmington, Ill., jumped 29 cents to $3.78 per mile.

Midwest malaise
Aside from that Green Bay lane, other Midwest reefer lanes retreated from the peaks of recent weeks. The region still has some of the highest prices in the country, despite sharp drops in the rates out of Chicago ($3.06 per mile, down 15 cents) and Grand Rapids ($3.56 per mile, down 9 cents).

Deferred demand
Supply chain disruptions due to severe weather, tariffs, and other factors may cause more demand to shift into later parts of fourth quarter. It raises the likelihood that end-of-year e-commerce and holiday retail will stack up and cause a spike in rates in November or December. Watch this space.

Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on prevailing spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. All reported rates include fuel surcharges.

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, visit the MyMembersEdge.com load board or tune in to Land Line Now. You can get all of the latest rate information at dat.com per industry-trends per trendlines, comment on the DAT Freight Talk blog, or join us on Facebook. On Twitter you can tweet your questions to us @LoadBoards and have your questions answered by DAT industry analyst Mark Montague.