Weekly Report 47 – 11/23/2021

Spot volume declines during the week before Thanksgiving

The van markets typically see solid spot volume gains during the final full week before Thanksgiving, but dry van load postings edged only slightly higher while refrigerated loads declined. Total spot load postings in the system fell 1.5% during the week ended November 19 (week 46). However, a failure to match seasonal expectations might not mean much when volume is running about 20% above last year and nearly 150% above the five-year average (2015-2019). Flatbed volume also fell.

Despite very strong volumes, segments have roughly followed seasonal expectations this fall, so the relative weakness could reflect unexpected changes in what already is an unusual market. For example, softer spot volumes leading into Thanksgiving might reflect a supply chain that is so stressed that some products will not make it to market in time for the holiday or Black Friday. Alternatively, in anticipation of supply chain stresses, some of the inventory builds we typically see in November – especially in temperature-controlled freight – might have occurred gradually earlier in the fall. Another possibility is that stronger growth recently in trucking payroll employment might finally be starting to take some pressure off the spot market. A combination of all three of those factors could be responsible.


Total Market demand index

After a notable increase in the prior week, truck postings fell 11.4% week over week. The Market Demand Index – the ratio of loads to trucks in the system – recovered most of its decline in week 45. Truck postings fell sharply in dry van and flatbed but were up slightly in refrigerated. The dry van MDI rose to its highest level in six weeks.

Dry Van Spot Loads

Dry van load postings moved up 1.3% after declining 2.8% in the prior week. The five-year average change for week 46 is an increase of more than 12%, so the weekly gain was quite weak in comparison to seasonal expectations. Load postings were nearly 17% higher than the same week last year and about 139% above the five-year average.

Refrigerated Spot Loads

Refrigerated volume fell 3.6% after declining 1.6% during the prior week. The week before Thanksgiving typically sees the strongest refrigerated volume of the year and a sharp week-over-week gain that averages about 17%. Assuming no decline in consumer demand, the surprising weakness could mean either product shortfalls or early inventory builds or perhaps even both depending on the product category. Or perhaps seasonal expectations do not mean much given that refrigerated volume in the latest week was nearly 37% above last year and nearly 132% above the five-year average.

Flatbed Spot Loads

Flatbed load postings declined 2.8% after falling 7.5% in the prior week. Flatbed typically does not see the pre-holiday surge usually experienced in the van markets, and the decrease was only modestly weaker than seasonal expectations. Flatbed volume was about 18% higher than the same week last year and about 167% higher than the five-year average.

Total Spot Rates

Total spot rates increased nearly 3 cents and were more than 18% higher than the same week last year. However, high diesel prices are a major factor. Excluding fuel surcharges, total rates were about 8% higher year over year. Refrigerated saw the strongest increase as rates were up nearly 9 cents week over week and nearly 21% higher than the same 2020 week. Dry van rates were up nearly 4 cents and were nearly 13% higher than the same week last year. Flatbed rates were up about 2 cents and were nearly 18% higher year over year. Excluding fuel, refrigerated, dry van, and flatbed rates were up about 14%, 3%, and 8%, respectively, from the same 2020 week.

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