October is a transitional month for freight and can be very difficult to forecast. It is the beginning of the fourth quarter and the onset of fall in many parts of the country. Retail shipments tend to dominate the landscape of the freight market this month as shippers prepare for the coming holiday season. Items like bottled water and produce give way to electronics and clothing. Demand for these goods is very unpredictable, typically resulting in upward rate pressure towards the end of the month due to strict service requirements.
With demand growing, the market has begun to tighten; spot rates ticked up slightly from August with average national rates increasing about 1.6% or 2.3 cents-per-mile. Last September, the momentum was heading in the opposite direction with average rates falling 0.6% or 1 cent-per-mile. We expect some of this upward momentum to carry into the peak season through October. Expect some early relief with tightening towards the end of the month again.