The national outbound tender rejection rate has climbed higher for three days in a row to reach 26.45% Monday. Capacity tightened across the country even as national average spot rates fell 1% to $2.89/mile, inclusive of fuel, on Truckstop.com’s load boards.
Trucking markets are largely stable heading into Thanksgiving, albeit at very high spot rates and rejection rates. We aren’t seeing a market like 2019, which popped nicely into the holidays, or a market like 2018, when a year and a half of rate inflation began its collapse in the fourth quarter despite peak retail season.
UPS said that it’s been running at peak volumes since June, and maybe that’s a good way of thinking about current freight market data: The normal gauges that we use to measure market activity are almost maxed out. It’s unlikely that tender rejections go meaningfully higher, even if brokers’ jobs get harder in the weeks ahead, and as delivery windows get tighter, brokers may pay carriers more to keep their freight off the load boards.
So we don’t view flat rates and rejections as a signal that markets are calm or stable, that capacity has become more predictable or easier to find or that rate discovery is now transparent. Far from it. Instead, we believe this peak season will be more confused than previous years: volatile, choppy rates, inefficient transmission of market information and opaque price discovery.
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John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.