Understanding Flatbed Trucking Rates
Flatbed trucking rates are tough to nail down across different markets. It’s not like buying a particular car, where the MSRP will be similar across dealers and regions. Flatbed rates may vary widely across regions. It comes down to supply and demand and the load-to-truck ratios in specific markets.
This variability makes it hard for shippers to assess general market pricing for flatbeds in order to predict rates and calculate transportation costs. A flatbed truck broker can be a huge help in this planning process, but first let’s take a look at why flatbed trucking rates are so changeable.
The Variable Nature of Flatbed Trucking Rates
While there are many factors impacting supply and demand in the flatbed world, one that is almost always consistent is the weather.
When Mother Nature decides it is time for the seasons to change, the supply and demand of flatbed loads changes as well. This trend is most prominent in climates with unpredictable weather. When snow is falling in the Midwest, flatbed capacity is also falling because carriers head south to avoid it. Outdoor shippers tend to slow down and wait for the peak summer season to move their freight. In the south, a shipper might have more consistent year round volumes and drivers don’t have to worry about tarping a load in a snow storm.
The change in capacity in these areas is what changes rates. Load to truck ratios often times flip. In the Midwest that means more loads than trucks, but in the southern regions there are more trucks than loads. A specialized broker will have this data and can help educate customers during any season.
Flatbed trucking rates are also affected by busy seasons for certain commodities. Rates can be affected by the strength of the construction market, oil and gas, and on economic conditions across the nation. It’s not easy to forecast or predict these factors and they can change overnight. Partnering with a specialized flatbed broker who stays current and up to date on market trends is invaluable and can help insulate shippers from rate volatility.
As a shipper, you can get caught up in a game of rate roulette and pay more than you need to. Experienced nationwide flatbed brokers, on the other hand, work with hundreds of carriers and have a solid understanding of those carriers. They know which carriers are actually hungry for your freight and what time of year that freight might be in most demand. For instance, if you are only using carriers in your local area, you may be paying headhaul pricing. But a lane that may be bad for your carrier might actually be perfect for the broker, who may know a carrier in need of a backhaul from your area.
Need Flatbed Service in a New Market? Brokers Can Help
If you are entering a new market, brokers can be particularly helpful in understanding available carriers and reducing flatbed trucking rates. It’s like selecting professionals after you’ve moved into a new neighborhood. You can roll the dice on a plumber you find in the yellow pages, or you can talk to a neighbor who’s lived there many years and can steer you to a qualified, reasonably priced professional.
Flatbed trucking rates can change with the weather, literally. Experienced flatbed brokers with a detailed database of carriers can help you understand how rates will fluctuate in specific markets during specific times of the year. This kind of resource is invaluable when you are trying to predict transportation costs and ensure your company is not overpaying for transportation.