Fleet Management

Spot Truckload Van, Reefer Rates Remain Near Peak Levels

November 15, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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The availability of spot truckload freight slipped 1.6% and the number of posted trucks rebounded 7.6% for the week ending Nov. 11, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.

National average spot van and reefer rates are hovering at or near peak levels due to higher fuel surcharges and strong demand for truckload capacity leading into the holiday shopping season, according to the freight-matching service provider. The general trend is for higher rates on eastbound lanes, with more demand for deliveries into the population centers in the Northeast.

National average spot truckload rates compared to the previous week:

  • Van: $2.06 per mile, down 1 cent
  • Flatbed: $2.30 per mile, up 1 cent
  • Reefer: $2.37 per mile, unchanged

All reported spot rates include fuel surcharges. The national average price of on-highway diesel added 4 cents to $2.92 per gallon during this time.

The number of posted van loads was up 1% after a 7% jump last week. The number of available trucks increased 8%, which led the van load-to-truck ratio downward from 6.3 to 5.9 van loads per truck. The van load-to-truck ratio is still twice as high as the same period a year ago.

Spot van rates moderated or remain elevated in key markets across the country compared to the previous week:

  • Los Angeles, $2.58 per mile, up 9 cents
  • Chicago, $3.33 per mile, unchanged after jumping 14 cents the previous week
  • Memphis, $2.32 per mile, up 1 cent
  • Atlanta, $2.21 per mile, down 3 cents
  • Dallas, $1.76 per mile, down 3 cents
  • Houston, $1.70 per mile, unchanged

One harbinger of that west-to-east freight flow: the average Los Angeles-Chicago spot rate climbed 11 cents to $1.81 per mile, not exceptionally high, but still strong rate considering that this is a busy and competitive intermodal lane, according to DAT.

In the spot reefer market, the number of load posts increased 4% to build on an 18% jump the previous week. The reefer load-to-truck ratio dipped slightly from 11.8 to 11.5 loads per truck as available capacity was up 7%.

Pricing in several stalwart reefer markets was strong, McAllen, Texas, added 4 cents to $2.00 per mile and Green Bay was up 15 cents to $3.84 per mile, while rates elsewhere cooled. The average outbound rate from Chicago retreated 5 cents to $3.26 per mile after a 14-cent hike the previous week; Elizabeth, New Jersey fell 22 cents to $1.98 per mile and Lakeland, Florida decreased 4 cents to $1.26 per mile.

After hitting 50.2 loads per truck at the end of September, the flatbed ratio is easing off. Last week flatbed load posts declined 9% and truck posts increased 7% to push the load-to-truck ratio down 15% to 29 to 1, although that’s still high for the season.

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