Fleet Management

Spot Market Freight Rates Retreat as Truck Capacity Jumps

January 18, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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While truckload volumes increased 18% on the spot freight market a 34% hike in available truck capacity sent both rates and load-to-truck ratios lower for the week ending Jan. 14, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.

With more trucks in the marketplace during the first full week of the year, rates fell for all three equipment types. Vans posted the biggest drop, down 5 cents from the week before for a national average of $1.72 per mile. Reefers and flatbeds each fell 3 cents, coming in at an average of $2 per mile and $1.89 per mile, respectively.

Those rates include a fuel surcharge. The average price of on-highway diesel slipped 1 cent to $2.59 per gallon during the period.

The number of available vans was up 36% compared to the previous week while van load posts rose more gradually at 14%.  The van load-to-truck ratio slipped from 4.7 to 3.9 loads per truck, which is still unseasonably high for vans, according to DAT.

Spot van rates declined in many van markets, includes key regional hubs:

  • Chicago, $2.10 per mile, down 1 cent
  • Dallas, $1.57 per mile, down 1 cent
  • Atlanta, $1.90 per mile, down 6 cents
  • Philadelphia, $1.75 per mile, unchanged
  • Los Angeles, $1.99 per mile, down 6 cents

Reefer load posts increased 8% but the number of available reefers rose 27%. This helped push the reefer load-to-truck ratio down 15% to 9.1 reefer loads per truck. Despite the decline in the national average reefer rate, DAT said its current level is still strong for mid-January, though prices were mixed along some key produce lanes

Reefer rates were down in all major markets in California last week as the state was hit by heavy rains in the lower elevations and heavy snow in the mountains. The average outbound rate from Los Angeles slipped 3 cents to $2.46per mile. DAT also reported imports are driving more activity in McAllen, Texas, where the average outbound rate was $2.05 per mile, up 4 cents. McAllen-Dallas increased 24 cents to $2.58 per mile. Meantime, in Lakeland, Florida the average reefer rate of $1.38 per mile dipped 2 cents while several outbound lanes fell, including Lakeland-Charlotte, down 38 cents last week to $1.21 per mile.

In the flatbed sector, demand bounced back with a 31% increase in available loads. Truck posts increased 38% compared to the previous week, sending the load-to-truck ratio down slightly to 27.1 loads per truck, though the level has been slowly trending higher since August. This most recent decline in the average flatbed rate is the second weekly one in a row and is the lowest out of the last four weeks.

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