Fleet Management

National Spot Rates Stuck, Obscuring Regional Strengths

August 31, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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DAT Solutions four-week spot freight rate trends. Graphic: DAT
DAT Solutions four-week spot freight rate trends. Graphic: DAT

The number of available loads on the spot freight market moved higher during the most recent week as truck capacity was unchanged, but it wasn’t enough to push average rates up, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.

The number of spot market loads increased 4.7% for the week ending Aug. 27 compared to the previous seven-day period, due primarily to gains in the amount of van and reefer loads.

As for rates, the average for vans was unchanged at $1.60 per mile as outbound rates increased in the Canadian-gateway markets of Buffalo and Seattle, but fell in Houston. Compared to three weeks earlier, the average is down 3 cents.

Reefers also held steady, but slightly higher, at an average of $1.89 per mile. Reefer prices showed gains in Atlanta and Grand Rapids, Mich., but were lower in McAllen, Texas. National average rates are down 4 cents compared to three weeks ago.

The loser of the three main sectors was flatbeds, with the average rate falling 3 cents over the past week to $1.89 per mile – down 4 cents from three weeks earlier.

The lack of increase in rates came as the average price of diesel moved 1.7% higher over the past week to $2.41 per gallon.

Despite rates not moving higher, load-to-truck ratios improved for both reefers and vans. Reefers jumped 12% as reefer load posts increased 12% last week while truck posts were unchanged. That boosted the reefer load-to-truck ratio from 5.3 to 5.9 loads per truck. Van load posts increased 9% last week and truck posts stayed the same, which yielded a 8% increase in the load-to-truck ratio, from 2.6 to 2.8 loads per truck.

In contrast, flatbed load posts declined 8% last week, and truck posts declined 2%. That caused the load-to-truck ratio to fall 5%, from 10.2 to 9.7 loads per truck.

With this lack of any real increases in spot truckload freight rates, some are wondering if both freight volume and rates are stuck in neutral. However, DAT Analyst Mark Montague, writing in the company blog last week, said while overall the picture may seem that way, there is regional growth in the spot freight marketplace.

“The Midwest is gaining traction, which is always a good sign. There is seasonal freight coming out of the Pacific Northwest, too, mostly as a result of late summer produce harvests,” Montague said. “At the national level, those positive trends are obscured by weakness in California freight markets, and the ongoing softness in business sectors that are linked to oil and gas production.”

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