Indicators: Shippers Conditions sharply improve, spot rates flat, trucking revenues soared in ’18

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CCJ‘s Indicators rounds up the latest reports on trucking business indicators on rates, freight, equipment, the economy and more.

Market conditions for shippers improved sharply in May, according to FTR’s monthly Shippers Conditions Index, boosted by the continued softening of truckload and intermodal rates, says FTR. The index indicates that conditions for shippers are now at their best point since 2015.

Shippers conditions are often an inverse of conditions for carriers, meaning May’s Trucking Conditions Index, likely to be released soon, will indicate deterioration in conditions for carriers.

“Softness in freight volumes combined with more abundant capacity in the truckload market than was present last year have made it a good time to be a shipper,” says Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR. “Sustained weakness in freight volumes through the summer suggest the positive results for shippers could continue for much of the rest of 2019.”

Spot market rates held flat in July

Per-mile rates on the spot market were mostly flat in July, according to monthly rates data from, with reefer rates climbing a few pennies and flatbed and dry van rates slipping slightly.

(Data from from

Though June was an outlier, through the first seven months of the year, rates on the spot market were in a noticeable downward cycle, declining even through spring — a usual annual inflection point for per-mile spot rates.

Rates typically fall-off between July and October, a lull between the year’s two primary freight seasons — spring’s flatbed and reefer season and the late fall/early winter holiday-driven freight season.

Reefer rates in July climbed three cents a mile, to $2.45 a mile, according to data. The segment’s per-mile national average was down 48 cents from the same month last  year, but up a nickel from July 2017.

Flatbed rates, meanwhile, fell 4 cents in July, to $2.39 a mile, and were down 46 cents from July 2018. They were up 10 cents from July 2017.

Lastly, van rates slipped a penny in July from June, to $2.18. The segment’s average fell 52 cents year over year. Compared to July 2017, van’s average was up 7 cents.

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Trucking revenues neared $800 billion in 2018

Amid a year of “dynamic growth,” American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello reported Wednesday that trucking industry revenue was $796.7 billion in 2018 — up nearly $100 billion from the year prior.

The figure was reported as part of the release of ATA’s annual American Trucking Trends data compilation.

ATA reported that the industry moved 71.4 percent of the country’s freight tonnage, and that industry revenues accounted for 80.3 percent of the nation’s freight bill.