According to reports, flatbed and reefer demand is on the rise in the Pacific Northwest at rates higher than seen nationwide due to a variety of factors. Let’s look at the hard numbers for both the nation as a whole and the Pacific Northwest in particular. We’ll also discuss the factors behind the rising demand.
The Hard Numbers
About 70% of freight in the U.S. is moved by trucks, and that tonnage is on the increase. It grew 5% between 2016 and 2017, and the growth is expected to be even greater for 2018. However, there are regional differences in demand for trucks and between types of trucks. For example, year over year demand for flatbed trucks was 8% to 10% higher in 2017 than in 2016. While the median load to truck ratio was roughly 3.5 for vans in mid-2017 and 6.5 for refrigerated (reefer) trucks, it hit a whopping 44 loads per truck for flatbeds. If you’re looking for big rigs for sale, flatbeds will start generating a serious return on your investment almost immediately.
At the end of 2017, the heaviest demand for flatbed trucks was in western Oregon and northern California. Idaho and Montana, too, had far higher demand for flatbed trucks than states like Utah and Colorado.
Factors Driving Flatbed Truck Demand
Demand for flatbed trucks has been rising steadily since mid-2016. This is partially due to the spike in new home construction. The National Association of Home Builders reported a 7% YTD in single-family starts in 2017. That’s expected to rise 10% in 2018. Demand for flatbed trucks in the Pacific Northwest is indirectly impacted by the rapid new home construction in Oregon and Washington as many flee California.
Rates for flatbed trucks are growing, too, due to the shortage of drivers; this was made worse by the electronic logging device mandate, as well as rising freight volumes. Metal volumes are going to be up about 1% year over year. This is after the pipe business hit a low in 2016. Service steel shipments, nearly all of which are transported by truck, were up 4% in 2017 after the 6% decline in 2016.
Factors Driving Reefer Demand
While produce and meat products are the first things that come to mind, reefers are increasingly used to transport medical products to extend their life or simply keep the high-end products like biologics from going bad. Refrigerated trucks are being used more often to transport wine and chemicals to keep them in an ideal state and minimize spoilage.
Demand for these trucks for local and regional shipping is growing as people shift to personal grocery deliveries and grocery stores demand even tighter schedules for their supply chain. Growing preferences for local produce, too, lead to more reefer trucks used to bring in produce from Idaho and Arizona instead of overseas.
Shifts in consumer preferences as well as the need to keep far more products good is driving demand for reefers. We can expect demand for truckers and rigs to remain strong for the foreseeable future.