The current economic conditions in the U.S. freight market are making it very challenging for carriers across the country. As of May 15, 2023, the average spot rate for reefers and dry vans hovered around $1.49 a mile, the lowest since 2019. Truckload tender rejections, a barometer used for measuring load volume and carrier capacity, are currently lower than 3%. This indicates that reefer and dry van carriers are receiving bottom barrel rates for loads; it also means that carriers are essentially desperate to receive load tenders and will likely accept loads just to keep their trucks moving and cover operational costs.
Flatbed capacity, on the other hand, has remained tight throughout the year. As noted in a previous blog, flatbed truck capacity is affected by seasonality. Construction projects typically start in warmer months, which increases the usage of flatbed trailers to haul machinery, pipes, concrete, industrial equipment, and other large or oversized materials. In May 2023, flatbed rejection rates were at 17%, indicating that shippers are finding it more challenging to secure capacity for their flatbed shipments.
There are obviously a lot of unique cost considerations that go into flatbed shipping rates. This blog provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the different factors that influence these rates, as well as what the cost per mile ought to be for using this mode of transportation. Understanding what contributes to flatbed shipping rates will help readers make informed decisions on when to buy and secure capacity when they need it most.
Unpacking Flatbed Shipping Rates: The Cost Per Mile
Figuring out flatbed shipping rates depends on a variety of factors, which include:
Load Size, Weight, and Dimensions of Cargo
A typical flatbed can legally carry a maximum weight of 48,000 pounds. Carriers will want to know what type of commodity is being transported, and what type of flatbed trailer is needed for the shipment. For example, cargo exceeding height limits on a standard flatbed trailer will need to use step decks or lowboy trailers. Over-dimensional cargo often requires double-drop trailers, or flatbeds with multi-axles.
Shipping Lane, Total Miles, and Geographical Considerations
Where the load is picked up and the city where it’s delivered to plays a huge part in determining flatbed shipping rates. Sourcing flatbed capacity is easier when the shipper is located near the ten major flatbed shipping markets in the U.S. Carriers will almost certainly charge extra if it requires the driver to deadhead a substantial amount of miles to get to the load, or if the city they are delivering into is not conducive for getting a backhaul.
Flatbed shipping rates are also influenced by what region of the country where the shipper needs the flatbed and also which part of the country you are trying to deliver into. The cost per mile varies depending on these geographical considerations. Population density, gas prices, operational expenses, the price of living, and other factors all influence the cost of transportation.
When hauling loads that require specialized transport like oversized wind turbines, generators, or farming equipment, shippers will likely incur additional costs, particularly if the loads are moved out of state or cross-border into Canada or Mexico.
Equipment Surcharges and Potential Accessorial Fees
Flatbed shipping rates also must consider what equipment the driver will need to safely enter the shipping facility and secure the load to the trailer. For example, suppose a driver is picking up a load of coils from a steel manufacturer. Industrial sites often require drivers to wear helmets, goggles, construction vests, or other equipment. The driver will need chains, coil racks, and coil tarps to secure the load to the trailer. All of this equipment requires an additional cost, especially if the driver does not have these things on his truck already. Like any load, there’s also the chance the carrier may ask for an accessorial fee like detention in the event the driver must wait at the shipper or receiver beyond normal waiting times.
Cost Per Mile From the Carrier’s Perspective
One of the ways that carriers determine their cost per mile is by factoring in all the operational costs involved to keep their trucks and equipment moving in the first place. Carriers have a variety of fixed costs, such as driver wages, diesel fuel charges, equipment maintenance, health and cargo insurance costs, taxes, permits, doc fees, and profit. Each carrier has different operational costs that will determine their cost per mile. Of course, when flatbed capacity becomes tight, carriers have the advantage of deciding which load tender they should accept to maximize profitability—which adds to flatbed shipping rates.
Understanding Flatbed Shipping Rate Quotes
When shippers ask their transportation service provider for a rate quote, they will generally receive a detailed itemized breakdown of all costs or an all-in rate. Flatbed shipping rates are also determined by the overall load volume that is expected for the project. Is this a one-time shipment, or will the carrier expect recurring monthly volume? Transportation providers prefer regular repeat business as they can assign a driver on a particular lane, secure a potential backhaul, and create a closed loop for their business. Therefore, they often provide a more competitive rate quote if they receive a consistent volume of loads per week or month.
Flatbed shipping quotes also consider any fuel surcharge costs, which fluctuate throughout the year and are tied to the diesel price. The U.S. Energy Information Administration releases its Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update each day, which shows the breakdown of average costs per gallon throughout the United States.
What to Look for When Choosing a Flatbed Carrier Partner
When looking for a flatbed carrier, it’s important to partner with a transportation service provider that specializes in flatbed shipping service. These experienced companies have the logistics and operational experience to source flatbed capacity for all U.S. domestic and cross-border loads out of Canada and Mexico. Wicker Park Logistics offers customers guaranteed on-demand flatbed capacity for spot loads, projects, and year-round business. Its vast North American network of flatbed carriers and equipment is available when your company needs it most. Wicker Park Logistics also offers shippers technology to access an online platform and instant flatbed shipping rates. Carrier partners can also log in, view, bid, and accept loads, creating a seamless way for shippers and carriers to connect and secure business for each other.
Wicker Park Logistics has your Flatbed Shipping Covered
Flatbed shipping doesn’t need to be complicated. Thousands of shippers have partnered with Wicker Park Logistics because they offer quality trucks, a range of flatbed equipment, and a dedicated team of logistics experts that strive for customer satisfaction and up-to-the-minute visibility on your shipments. Wicker Park Logistics is the no-hassle solution for shipping flatbed loads throughout North America. With a carefully vetted network of flatbed carriers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, Wicker Park Logistics helps connect global suppliers to their North American customers. You can understand more about flatbed shipping rates by connecting with an expert at Wicker Park Logistics today!