Fleet Management

Spot Rates Slip for Vans, Reefers; Surge May be Ahead

December 23, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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Image: DAT
Image: DAT

Rates on the spot freight market slipped in two of the three main sectors for the week ending Dec. 19 as the amount of cargo to move fell slightly, according to DAT Solutions per its network of load boards.

Overall truck capacity increased just 0.1% as the amount of available freight fell 1.9%.

In the van market, the number of posted loads fell 5% while available capacity was up 1%. The resulting load-to-truck ratio, which can signal impending changes in rates, fell 6%, resulting in 1.6 van loads for every truck posted on the DAT network.

The national average van rate fell 0.6% to $1.71 per mile as outbound rates rose in Buffalo, but declined in Chicago and Los Angeles.

All reported rates include fuel surcharges.

The number of posted reefer loads increased 2% while truck posts declined 3%, for a 3.6 load-per-truck ratio as a national average. The national average reefer rate continued to slip, losing 0.5% to $1.93 per mile, its lowest level in at least the past four weeks. Prices rose in Southern Idaho, but reefer rates fell in Elizabeth, N.J.

Flatbed load posts were down 2% and truck capacity declined 1%, leaving the national flatbed load-to-truck ratio unchanged at 6.8. The national average flatbed rate edged up 0.5% to $1.92 per mile while the average fuel surcharge held steady.

This performance came as the average price of diesel continued to fall, plunging 6 cents to $2.28 per gallon.

With the general malaise that continues to persist in spot truckload rates, especially when compared to last year, some are asking will there be another surge in freight, as the final online orders all hit right before Christmas?

“I'm guessing yes, for two reasons. First, the economy still appears to be strong enough to produce some surges in spot market demand, even if those are short-lived,” wrote DAT Analyst Mark Montague in the DAT blog. "Second, the increased popularity of online shopping has extended the Christmas retail season, and last-minute parcel delivery indicates additional truckload freight moving to distribution centers right up until Christmas Day. I haven't done my Christmas shopping yet, and I know I'm not the only one.”

He said additional freight may trickle in after Christmas, too. “The increased popularity of gift cards makes it imperative for most retailers to re-stock in January, when those cards are most often redeemed.”

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