Chart showing flatbed truck rates from May 2017 to May 2018
Data provided by DAT Solutions LLC

When you tally the reasons why lumber prices are at unprecedented heights and costs for other goods are rising, make sure you include trucking costs on your list.

The spot-rate charge for a flatbed truck in May jumped to $2.73 per mile, reports DAT Solutions, a Beaverton, Ore.-based company that tracks and helps match trucking demand with supply. That's a 3% price increase from April and a 31% rise since May 2017. In 10 of the top 15 flatbed markets, the spot rate is above $3 a mile.

By contrast, the contract rate has gone up only 17% from May to May, but it has jumped 4% just since April.

These fresh reports continue reports made on May 18 at Do it Best's spring market, when trucking experts said rising demand and reduced productivity was contributing to what other officials called "uncharted territory" for lumber and other products' prices. If anything, those prices have risen since mid-May, spurred by tariff announcements and troubled trade negotiations.

The volume of goods carried by flatbed trucks has skyrocketed 69% in the past year, according to DAT Solutions. "[Growth was] bolstered by increased activity in the energy and construction sectors, and compounded by the tighter hours-of-service limitations that have affected every trucking segment since the implementation of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate," the service said in a June 8 report. ELD is a relatively new mandate designed to make trucking safer by more accurately logging how long drivers have been behind the wheel.

With demand rising and drivers' hours falling, DAT's electronic billboard was receiving in May 99 requests for flatbed truck hauls for every one truck that was available. In May 2017, that ratio was only about 37:1, and a year before that it was 17:1.

"Flatbed ratios are often inflated because loads get reposted and truckers in that segment are the least likely to post their trucks, but those ratios were still unprecedented," DAT's Matt Sullivan wrote in a May 30 post. "It means that trucks have been hard to find, and as a result, flatbed rates have soared."