European road freight market suffered limp holiday period

The road freight market in Europe has been particularly subdued over the past few months, according to the Freightex European Road Freight Rate Index, compiled by Transport Intelligence. However, the market experienced short bursts of volatility, a strange situation which is largely attributed of the recession across much of the continent.

For the three months from November 2012 to the end of January, the Index, which identifies price fluctuations, rose from a low of 113 points in November to a high of 117.8 on January 1. Through January, the Index saw marked declines.

In contrast, the Index rose by 8 points over the same period of last year. In absolute terms, prices are roughly the same as last year, with the high of 117.8 comparing slightly favourably with last year’s 116 points. Although, Christmas 2011 saw rates come off the floor, with 2012 prices higher throughout the year. Nonetheless, this year’s Christmas seasonal rise was much less dramatic than normal.

Certain markets were fairly stable with rather subdued growth. Germany is a good example of this. Market players reported slow, but steady demand from the retail sector and more than ample supply. They also observed that cross-border traffic is weaker than domestic demand. 

Conversely, Spain is experiencing very poor demand and heightened volatility. Market sources reported that the behaviour of Spanish truckers is changing as they adapt to distressed market conditions. Previously just interested in business in and out of the Iberian Peninsula, they are now willing to take business across Europe.

The rest of Europe fits in somewhere between the two. France is volatile with a characteristic ‘compressed Christmas’ with the price rise normally seen throughout November and December squeezed into the last few weeks before December 25. Belgium is also described as “very up and down” with a dramatic fall in prices from mid to late January. In addition, it has been observed that UK drivers in particular are reducing their exposure to certain routes as they cannot be sure of getting back-loads. Conceivably, this might underpin prices in the short to medium term.

Thomas Cullen, Senior Analyst at Transport Intelligence, commented: “The picture painted by the Freightex European Road Freight Rate Index over the past quarter is hardly a surprise. Demand in much of Europe is weak, notably France and Italy, with the situation particularly bad in Spain. Germany is stable if not exactly growing rapidly.”

Click here to download a free copy of the full European Road Freight Rate Index for November 2012 – January 2013.