Is the ‘2019 Trucking Recession’ All in Our Heads?

What’s really up with truckload rates?

Or more to the point,…why aren’t rates closer to where they were a year ago?

In June this year, the national average spot van rate of $1.89 per mile was 43 cents below the average for June 2018, according to DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest load board network.

The average reefer rate was $2.25 per mile, 46 cents below the rate in June 2018. The flatbed rate averaged $2.30 per mile, 52 cents lower year over year.

Lower rates usually reflect less demand for truckload services, but it’s important to keep a few things in perspective if you’re comparing this year to the freight market in 2018.

2018 Was a Record-Setter: June is a peak month for spot truckload rates. But June 2018 was unlike any we’ve ever seen, setting all-time highs for spot van, refrigerated, and flatbed rates. Today’s truckload rates can’t help but look uninspiring compared to the spectacular highs of last June.


Volumes are Higher: Van freight volumes were 7 percent higher in the first six months of 2019 versus the first half of 2018, according to…

DAT. Reefer load counts were up 1.3 percent last month compared to June 2018—a remarkable number considering the devastating weather that agricultural producers have been dealing with. It’s been a solid year for truckload freight.

Capacity Is Back: Rates are a function of supply and demand, and last year the supply of available trucks was constrained by the April 1 enforcement deadline for the ELD mandate, which drove rates to all-time highs. Since then, truckers have returned to the marketplace—including many with new trucks and better-paid drivers. And fleets are putting their ELD data to use, shining a spotlight on shipper detention and other inefficiencies.

So, while truckload rates have been lower this year, there has been plenty of freight to move.

Here’s hoping the good times keep on rolling!

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