Indicators: Dry van freight ticked up in July, tariffs could alter seasonal rates trends

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

Freight Index July2019 Spot Market Volume Rate 2019 08 12 08 52Shipments of dry van freight rose 6.8 percent in July compared to June, according to the DAT Truckload Volume Index, which reflects the change in the number of spot market loads moved each month.

The national average van rate declined from June to July, however — in line with seasonal trends, said Peggy Dorf, market analyst with DAT Solutions. “July often marks the beginning of a downward turn for truckload rates,” Dorf said. “That has less to do with volume than the fact that, after the close of Q2 and the end of the Fourth of July holiday, shippers feel less urgency to get deliveries made by a specific date.”

While those trends may have been predictable, the announcement of new tariffs on Chinese imports beginning Sept. 1 could disrupt typical late-summer freight patterns.

“There was an uptick in activity at the end of July, and that could carry over into August,” said Dorf. “Shippers may rush to move imports ahead of the new tariffs, which could disrupt what would normally be the summer doldrums for pricing.”

Harsh weather curtailed and/or delayed many produce harvests this year, DAT says, which disrupted refrigerated shipments. But improved yields out of California contributed to an 8.7 percent increase in reefer volume from June to July.

Flatbed volume also rose in July, up 6.6 percent month over month.

“Truckload pricing followed normal seasonal patterns in July, despite uncertainty in some segments of the economy,” said Dorf. “Moving forward, the new tariffs are a wild card, on top of the potential risks to supply chain operations during hurricane season.”