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SONAR Sightings: Houston imports bring trucking volume out of 5-month low; Northwest reefer demand increases

The highlights from Monday’s SONAR reports are below. For more information on SONAR — the fastest freight-forecasting platform in the industry — or to request a demo, click here. Also, be sure to check out the latest SONAR update, TRAC — the freshest spot rate data in the industry.

Market Watch for Oct. 17:


Outbound demand in Houston is picking up after a drop earlier this month that brought volume levels down to a five-month low.

Truckload volume leaving the Houston market was stagnant at the start of October and on Oct. 6 dipped to the lowest levels since May. Outbound volume then began to trend upward on Wednesday and that trend is continuing into this week.

The Outbound Tender Volume Index climbed more than 25 points, or 8%, over the weekend to 344.5. This rise can likely be attributed to an increase in imports to the Port of Houston that occurred the first week of October. The seven-day moving average of U.S. customs import shipments increased 30% the first week of the month, and that is likely what the surface transportation market is now seeing.

Inbound capacity saw a rise over the weekend as well, as the Inbound Tender Volume Index jumped 26 points on Sunday.

Capacity tightened while volume was flatlined. Rejection rates reached more than 5% last week as carriers were searching the spot market for better opportunities. But now that volume is picking back up, capacity is settling back into their contracts. The Outbound Tender Reject Index in Houston fell 125 basis points in the last week to 3.7%.


Greenville, South Carolina

Volumes out of Greenville, South Carolina, are starting this week on a plateau after recovering from a 17.5% drop last week.

Outbound demand in Greenville may be beginning this week 14.5% higher than it was Oct. 10, but the directional trend of volume remains unclear for this week as it is currently seeing little to no change.

Inbound volumes, on the other hand, are consistently trending downward since the start of the month. The Inbound Tender Volume Index for Greenville is down 12.5 points, or 12.1%, since Oct. 2 and still pointed in a downward trajectory.

The increased amount of outbound volume as inbound freight levels decreased pushed the Headhaul Index in Greenville upward 27.5 points to 39.2 — its highest value since March.

The significant drop in inbound capacity brought rejection rates down with it as there is less available capacity entering the market to handle the increase in outbound demand. The Outbound Tender Reject Index for Greenville is down 152 bps in the last eight days to 5.5%.


Spokane, Washington

Now that fall is in full swing, summer produce such as melons, cantaloupes and grapes are either fading out or being stored through the winter, while produce like pumpkins, apples and quinces are in season.

Outbound reefer volumes in Spokane, Washington, drop at the start of each month as these different produce items fade in and out — and this month is no different. Reefer demand in Spokane fell 61% at the end of September and into the first week of October, but since Oct. 4 the Reefer Outbound Tender Volume Index has propelled upward 147% to match its highest value in the past three months.

Inbound reefer capacity is remaining consistent through the increase in outbound demand. After experiencing a minor drop, the Reefer Inbound Tender Volume Index rests essentially right where it was Oct. 4. Even still, capacity is handling the increasing amount of outbound volume this month. Outbound reefer rejection rates reached up to 13% when the volume increase began but have floated around 7% for the past five days.


NTI as a point of reference

The National Truckload Index is a daily look at how spot rates in specific lanes hold up in comparison to the national average, giving carriers and brokers an idea of which lanes to gravitate toward or avoid.

NTI Daily

Lane to watch: Houston to Dallas

Since the Port of Houston started to see record amounts of imports in August and September, spot market rates from Houston to Dallas began to decline.

Spot market rates in this lane are down 39 cents since Aug. 1 and are currently at $2.99 a mile — 19 cents above the national average. Carriers can make a decent amount of money for low mileage that puts them in the fourth-largest market by outbound tender market share. A return rate back to Houston is currently paying $2.68 a mile.

Market Dashboard

Watch: Carrier update

Corey Smith

Corey is a staff writer for FreightWaves with experience in air, intermodal and parcel operations, as well as LTL and full truckload transportation management. He is a graduate of the University of Memphis, majoring in supply chain management, and enjoys basketball, cinema and traveling.