What factors determine flatbed rates and quotes?

December 12, 2018

Flatbed rates seem to constantly fluctuate, and it can be difficult to keep pace with all the influential factors. Watching flatbed rates go up and down can be especially frustrating when trying to receive an accurate freight quote, and you may be wondering what exactly goes into the numbers you’re seeing.

So, what determines flatbed rates and quotes? While the core of these rates lies within fixed factors and the industries making up the flatbed world, unpredictable weather forecasts and more can play a role in the determination of rates. 

Let’s break down these components to get to the bottom of what determines flatbed rates and quotes.


The fixed factors

You can always count on the value, weight and dimensions of your freight to be taken into account when receiving a quote. Providing good freight characteristics up front – such as accurate dimensions of goods – is helpful for evaluating other trailer options to expand capacity. The type of trailer used (such as flatbeds, step decks, double drops and removable goosenecks) plays a role in determining the rate you receive, as some are more available than others. 

Familiarize yourself with any and all accessories or specialized services that you may need. Tarps, chains, corner protectors and more all need to be brought up in the booking process as they can impact the rate. These factors will never waver, but others might.


The fixed industries

Equally as crucial to these rates and quotes are the fixed industries that make up the flatbed world. What’s happening within the industrial goods, automotive, oil, gas and housing industries will impact the flatbed market. It’s important you keep a close watch on these industries to determine where and how freight is moving. After all, if one market goes up, then rates will increase along with it.

When the markets fluctuate, flatbed carriers begin to look at the capacity of other markets to stay afloat. For example, if the oil industry is up, then flatbed carriers that typically haul freight for the oil and gas industry will go about their business just fine. If the oil industry is down, these carriers will diversify and start hauling building materials or steel to stay in business. 

These factors came into play over the course of this year. What is important to note is that while these factors have always been a part of what determines flatbed rates and quotes, they are typically managed. In 2018, they were rather erratic.


Unpredictable weather affects the short term

When the weather changes, so does supply and demand. A storm will cause demand in locations that may not have been previously accounted for. Think hauling relief supplies after a hurricane, or salt during an especially snowy season. As capacity gets redirected in this manner, the areas affected by that particular weather event are forced to find a way to recover. 

Plus, loads are exposed with flatbeds, meaning shippers must work hand in hand with weather forecasts. When heavy rain or snow moves in, loads have to be protected. Putting a tarp over a whole load adds time, and some shippers would prefer to avoid it altogether. 

However, the impact weather has on the flatbed world is typically short term and it is not considered a long-term factor with regards to pricing. Severe weather is simply something to consider in the planning of each year.


Staying on top of the changes to flatbed shipping rates

Flatbed rates may seem unpredictable, but you can work with them. Weekly reports can help you understand the reasoning behind the quote you’ve received. If you can keep an eye on week to week movements, you will know the factors affecting your region or industry and be able to adjust the price of your product accordingly. Favorable shipping hours, no touch freight and providing lead time are all crucial elements to creating more attractive pricing in the spot market.

Watch all industries, not just yours, because they may affect your business as well. As long as you are staying on top of these changes, you’ll be able to see for yourself what is determining flatbed rates and quotes. 

If you would like to learn more about flatbed rates and quotes, contact us today to speak with a freight expert.



Do you have a shipment to book?

Get Free Quotes


Get Your Shipping Quote