Fleet Management

Spot Freight Market Steady, Rates Down

October 09, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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UPDATED -- Spot market freight volume remained relatively stable in September, edging down only 0.6% month over month as rates declined from both the month before and a year earlier.

This pushed the DAT North American Freight Index down to reading of 305, down from 307 in August and significatnly down from 515 in September a year ago. This latest reading is the lowest since February 2014. The index is based on DAT Solutions’ network of load boards in the U.S. and Canada.

Line haul rates, meaning they exclude fuel surcharges, were 2.6% lower than a year ago for vans, while reefer rates lost 3.3% and flatbeds dropped 5.3%. Total rates paid to the carrier declined by 13 to 15% year-over-year, due to a 50% decline in the fuel surcharge, which is included in the rate.

By equipment type, van freight levels increased 2.3% month-over-month, refrigerated freight added 2.1%, while flatbed volume lost 5.1%, compared to August.

Line haul rates on the spot market followed the month-over-month volume trends by equipment type, rising 0.7% for vans, unchanged for reefers, with a 0.6% decline for flatbeds.

Compared to the atypically strong spot market volume of 2014, freight was down 41% in September. By equipment type, year-over-year van freight availability dropped 33%, reefers fell 26% and flatbeds were 54% lower.

Texas handled the most freight in the DAT network, followed by Ohio, Illinois, California and Pennsylvania. Rounding out the sixth through 10th places are Indiana, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Alabama.

Meantime, a first look into October shows the market is improving slightly, especially in some pockets, according to DAT Analyst Peggy Dorf in the company’s blog.

"Oregon continues to offer substantial load volume and high load-to-truck ratios, especially in the state’s eastern and southern agricultural markets, with demand spilling into northern California," she wrote. "Albuquerque, N.M., also has high load availability for vans, coupled with a shortage of trucks."

However, a 5.4% increase in the amount of freight available to haul in the most recent week has yet to translate into better rates.

Update adds revised graphic.

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