Flatbeds benefiting from growing economy

 Rates and loads in the flatbed segment have been climbing this year and the peak season has still not arrived yet.
Rates and loads in the flatbed segment have been climbing this year and the peak season has still not arrived yet.

Construction, housing starts and oil boom are all boosting flatbed market

A slowly improving economy is boosting many sectors of the trucking industry, including one that rarely receives national headlines. And with the summer months quickly approaching and bringing with them, many hope, more home building and construction jobs, the segment’s prospects appear bright.

It is that time of year for flatbed haulers.

According to a DAT Transportation Solutions blog post by Pat Pitz, flatbed demand was rising quickly as May kicked off.

“While the average load-to-truck ratio in April was 3.5 for vans and 6.6 for reefers, the flatbed load-to-truck ratio was 43.7 loads per truck,” he writes in the May 2 posting. “That’s the highest monthly load-to-truck ratio we’ve seen in years.”

At that point, the national average flatbed rate, excluding fuel surcharge, was up 17 cents year over year, he notes, with flatbed demand up 102% year over year. “Demand is usually highest in late spring/early summer so the ratio could still move higher this year,” Pitz wrote.

That trend seems to be continuing, as last week’s DAT Trendlines report notes that flatbed spot rates for April were up 2% over March and the flatbed load-to-truck ratio climbed 20% during that time.

Why are flatbed operations the place to be right now? There are number of factors.

“Several key indicators point to strengthening trends in the economy,” says economist Chip Rowe. “Following a period of stronger demand and surging spot prices, an improving outlook for construction, steel and heavy equipment suggests a further boost for the flatbed truck market in 2017.”

Rowe reports that even though there was a decline in the past two months, the National Association of Home Builders monthly confidence gauge rose 2 points to 70 for May. That is the highest it has been since the Great Recession and 2 points higher than expectations. The group continues to forecast a lack existing home inventory, leading to expectations of continued new construction.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.