Rates under added pressure as Roadcheck 2017 kicks off

Inspection station

Cargo securement focus puts focus on flatbed rates, but van and reefer also likely to be impacted

If past Roadcheck trends hold true, shippers moving flatbed loads will face higher rates because of this year’s inspection blitz. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) annual safety campaign, which begins today and runs through June 8, will focus on cargo securement this year.

Each year, International Roadcheck pays particular attention to one safety area of the industry. The safety campaign has a history of influencing rates due to out-of-service orders and a larger-than-normal number of truckers who choose not to run their trucks to avoid inspections.

The CVSA’s 72-hour blitz will feature commercial motor vehicle inspectors conducting thousands of inspections of drivers and vehicles throughout the country. According to the organization, “inspectors will primarily be conducting the North American Standard Level I inspections, which is the most thorough roadside inspection.”

A Level I inspection includes a 37-step check of drivers and vehicles. Drivers are required to provide items such as their driver’s license, hours-of-service documentation, motor carrier registration and shipping documentation. The vehicle inspection includes checking items such as brake systems, cargo securement, coupling devices, driveline/driveshaft, exhaust systems, frames, fuel systems, lighting devices (required lamps), steering mechanisms, suspensions, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels, rims and hubs, and windshield wipers.

Last year, there were 62,796 inspections – about 15 every minute and 42,236 which were Level I inspections. Of Level I inspections, 21.5% of vehicles and 3.4% of drivers were placed out of service due to critical item violations, CVSA reported. The focus in 2016 was tire safety. CVSA said 18.5% of all vehicles placed out of service were because of tire/wheel violations.

That is a lot of capacity being removed from the industry.

The impact on rates

With approximately 20% of vehicles being placed out of service each year by Roadcheck inspections, there could be a lot of idle equipment this week. This could particularly true for flatbeds with the added focus this year on cargo securement.

What does this all mean for rates?

“Prices surged in the major van markets last week, despite the fact that the national average van rate dipped 1¢ per mile,” wrote DAT’s Matt Sullivan in a June 14, 2016, blog post the week following Roadcheck 2016. “The annual Roadcheck inspection blitz also happened last week, and rates have risen in the past during Roadcheck week. A lot of truckers prefer to take those days off, and others lost time because of the inspections.”

The year before, a similar trend occurred, DAT said.

“During Roadcheck week last year, DAT Load Boards saw a 9% decline in truck posts and a 37% increase in load posts,” the firm’s Peggy Dorf noted in a June 1, 2015, blog post.

“Well, during the week of Roadcheck 2014, that additional pressure on spot market capacity boosted rates by more than 3%,” Dorf added. “National average rates, including fuel, jumped 7¢ for dry vans, 8¢ for flatbeds and 6¢ for reefers. Van and reefer rates added a couple more pennies the week after Roadcheck, probably due to typical seasonal and flatbed rates dropped 2¢. Last year was extraordinary in many ways, so we looked at 2013, too. Turns out, the same pattern played out during Roadcheck week 2013: loads up 30%, trucks up 9%, van rates up 8¢ per mile.”

Flatbed, van and refrigerated segments are already facing some of their highest rates of the year.

For the week of May 21-27 -  the most recent reporting period – two of the three categories saw higher rates than the week before, and all posted higher rates in May than both April and last May.

For the week, dry van rates dipped 1 cent to $1.68 per mile. The decline, DAT said, was due to a 1 cent drop in the national average fuel surcharge. Seventy of the top 100 lanes saw increases in their rates. In May, the average national rate of $1.69 per mile was up 2 cents from April and 15 cents from May 2016.

Flatbeds and reefers, though, saw increases. Flatbed rates gained 1 cent to a national average of $2.10 per mile. That is up 3 cents over April and 18 cents from May 2016. Reefers saw a similar trend, climbing 2 cents to an average of $2.01 per mile. DAT said that is the highest average since early January, is 8 cents higher than April and 13 cents higher May 2016.

So the trend is clear: Roadcheck will likely boost already elevated rates across the board this week; the question will be by how much?