Transport Market Monitor: Continued Capacity Growth Causes Q4 2018 Drop in Spot Market Transportation Prices

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Available transportation capacity rose again by double digits in the fourth quarter of 2018. Around one-third more free freight volume became available in the market compared to Q4 2017 and this continuing capacity increase caused step-by-step reductions in spot market transportation prices. In Q4 2018 this drop was 3%, which meant road transportation prices fell below the 2017 level for the first time – a period in which the market experienced capacity bottlenecks. These are the findings of the 38th edition of the Transport Market Monitor (TMM) published by Transporeon and TIM CONSULT.

Here is an overview of the main TMM 38 results:

• In Q4 2018, the capacity index rose by 18.6% over Q3 2018 to 96.3 index points (Q3 2018: index 81.2). Compared to Q4 2017 (index 71.8), the capacity index was 34.1% higher in Q4 2018. 

• The transport price index fell in Q4 2018 to an index of 101.8, which equals a drop of 3% compared to Q3 2018 (index 104.9). The Q4 2018 price index was 5.7% lower than in Q4 2017.

• The diesel price index rose by 4.9% over Q3 2018. 

Available transport capacity rose again in Q4 2018 after a rise in Q3 2018. There was already more capacity in the market towards the end of 2017 but comparing year-on-year capacity growth there was a marked increase in Q4 2018 of more than 30% over Q4 2017. “The reason for the strong rise was that unusually little free freight volume was available in 2017 due to continuing capacity bottlenecks,” says Oliver Kahrs, Senior Manager Central Accounts & Partner Management of Transporeon.

This continuing easing has been most noticeable in spot market transport prices since October 2018. Whereas 2018 capacities have been above 2017 levels since May 2018, transport prices fell below the 2017 level for the first time in October 2018. Overall, transport prices in Q4 2018 were almost 6% below those of Q4 2017. But in practice, many shippers hardly noticed this development as they typically assign transportation jobs almost exclusively based on long-term contracts. “The current trends haven’t affected shippers yet. Those companies that want to take flexible advantage of favorable prices on the spot market should therefore adopt a mixed transportation assignment strategy, placing orders not just via established contracts but also opportunistically on day-to-day spot markets,” Kahrs continues.

Cutting costs by accessing lower prices on the spot market
With the rise in transport capacity, the price difference between the highest and lowest daily offer recorded for transportation on the Transporeon platform increased again in Q4 2018, up from around 21% in Q3 2018 to 23% in Q4 2108. In fact, the greatest price difference since Q4 2009 occurred in Q4 2018. High volatility in the transport market even caused spot market prices to drop, despite a near 5% rise in the diesel price index from Q3 2018 to Q4 2018. “The more transport capacity available, the lower the price difference in the spot market. Traditionally, there has been more free freight volume in the first quarter of each year. And so we expect the price difference to increase further in Q1 2019, which makes transport assignment through the spot market even more attractive,” explains Jan Rzehak, Director of Business Consulting at Transporeon.

Information on road transportation developments in Europe
The TMM is derived from spot market data on the Transporeon platform based on the ‘best carrier’ transport assignment solution. Published on a quarterly basis, the TMM contains numbers for the most recent quarter and also provides information on how transport capacity and prices have developed, looking back over the last twelve months and more. The TMM is free and can be subscribed to on the Transporeon website at

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