Fleet Management

Spot Freight Rates Sink Again, May Be at Bottom

November 19, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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Increased truck availability and few available loads to move pushed spot market truckload rates down again over the past week, but one analyst says it's possible they have bottomed out.

The freight-matching service provider DAT Solutions reports based on its load boards, the number of available trucks on the spot truckload market jumped 4.2% and the number of posted loads tumbled 4.1% during the week ending Nov. 14.

The offsetting capacity gain and decline in available loads helped push national average spot market rates down 2 cents for van, refrigerated, and flatbed freight. This comes at a time when shippers typically have holiday goods to move, according to DAT.

The national average truckload van spot market rate fell to $1.70 per mile and slipped in key markets including Los Angeles, down 2 cents to $1.99 per mile; and Memphis, down 6 cents to $1.97, despite higher volumes.

All rates include fuel surcharges.

Van load availability move up a slight 0.5% and capacity increased 3.7%. The van load-to-truck ratio was unchanged resulting in 1.6 available van loads for every truck posted on the DAT network.

For refrigerated freight, the national average spot rate fell to $1.92 per mile, although outbound rates rose in major markets including Elizabeth, N.J., up 10 cents to $1.76; and McAllen, Texas, up 2 cents to $1.68.

The number of available reefer loads increased 6.4% while truck capacity rose just 1.9%, which sent the load-to-truck ratio up 4.4% to 4.1 loads per truck.

Flatbed load availability fell 16.7% against a gain of 8.9% in truck posts. The national flatbed load-to-truck ratio gave up 23.5% to 6.2 loads per truck and the national average flatbed rate dropped to $1.95 per mile.

Spot market freight volumes and rates have been trending down for most of 2015, van rates since March, and flatbed and reefer rates since June, according to DAT Analyst Mark Montague, who said a few days ago a plateau may be forming, if not exactly an upward trend, in the DAT blog.

“We may even see a surge in volume, as shippers need to hit critical target dates for holiday deliveries or work around business closures during Thanksgiving week,” he wrote. “The more I see these trends, the more I’m inclined to think spot market rates have found the bottom.”

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