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Spot Market Freight Levels Continue Improving, Rates Up in Majority of Segments

December 18, 2013

By Evan Lockridge

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Spot market freight activity continued picking up steam the second week of December, following some improvements the week before as well as in November.

The freight matching service provider DAT reports total spot market loads available Dec. 8 through Dec. 14 increased 20% from the week before.

Rates during the period for vans were unchanged at $1.94 per mile, while flatbeds increased 1% to $2.07 per mile. Reefer rates posted the biggest gain, 1.4%, to $2.13 per mile.

“Winter weather is here, but the typical slowdown isn't,” says DAT,  with van loads increasing another 18.7% last week. Rates (including fuel) stayed elevated at $1.94 per mile, which DAT says is 6 cents higher than the national average in November. “Most holiday retail goods are already through the supply chain, so this surge may be attributed, in part, to businesses trying to take advantage of favorable pricing on commodities prior to 2014.”

Ddemand for flatbeds increased last week from the week before, while reefer demand hit its highest level in the past month.

November numbers

Looking back at November's monthly numbers, spot market freight availability remained strong, according to the DAT North American Freight Index.

For the fifth consecutive month, freight availability continued to outpace levels seen in recent years, during a time when volume typically declines. Month over month, freight availability declined 9.5%, the result of four fewer business days in November versus October, but average daily freight volume during the month actually exceeded October volume by 10%. On a year-over-year basis, freight volume increased 8%.

Load availability increased 0.9% for vans, but fell 5% for refrigerated trailers and 21% for flatbeds compared to October. Year over year, van freight volume declined 11%, while reefer loads added 6.2% and flatbed freight increased 4.3%.

The relative strength of November's overall freight volume was validated by an increase in spot market rates. Rates rose 5% for vans and 1.9% for reefers compared to October, while flatbed rates declined seasonally by 2.5% Compared to November 2012, rates rose 6% for vans and 1.9% for reefers, but declined 5.4% for flatbeds compared to last year's record high rates in that segment.

Rates are cited for line haul only, excluding fuel surcharges, which declined on both a month-over-month and year-over-year basis. The monthly DAT North American Freight Index reflects spot market freight availability on the TransCore DAT network of load boards in the United States and Canada. 

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