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Spot Market Loads Jump 74% Last Week, 2013 Rates and Activity Better Than 2012

January 15, 2014

By Evan Lockridge

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Activity on the spot market skyrocketed the first full week of the year, according to new figures from the freight-matching service provider DAT, but rates lagged.

The number of loads available increased 74% Jan. 5 through Jan. 11, compared to the week before, while a 28.4% jump in capacity, pushed rates down. The increase in load volume for vans was even greater during the same time, nearly 85%.

The average rate for vans fell 0.5% to $1.94 per mile, while flatbed rates lost 3.2% for $2.10 per mile with reefers losing 1.4% for $2.10 per mile. Rates also declined as load-to-truck ratios in all three categories posted strong double-digit increases.

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After lopsided numbers and pent-up demand, due to winter weather, the average van rate out of Buffalo dropped 31 cents to $2.01 per mile and the Philadelphia rate dipped 8 cents to $1.84 per mile. Rates also fell across the West, notably outbound from Los Angeles at $2.08 per mile, a 10-cent drop. Columbus, Ohio, was among the few major Midwestern van markets that saw rates rise, adding 8 cents to an average of $2.13 per mile.

DAT also just released figures for December showing spot market freight availability compared to November, capped two quarters of unusually strong seasonal volume.

“Typically, freight levels peak in the second quarter, fall in Q3 the third quarter and remain low through year end, but this year's pattern formed a high plateau through most of the second half," the company said.

Compared to December 2012, freight volume last month increased 45%, while continued, atypical demand set a sixth consecutive record for same-month freight volume, the highest level for any December on record, going back to 1996.

Load availability in December compared to November rose 19% for vans, 14% for refrigerated trailers and 1% for flatbeds.

When all of 2013 is compared to the year before, van freight volume increased 41%, reefer loads added 65% and flatbed freight increased 43%.

Rates on the spot market in December versus November rose 5% for vans, to a monthly average of $1.95 per mile, the highest observed since DAT began publishing spot market rates in 2009. Reefer and flatbed rates also increased, 3.2% and 3.8% respectively.

Compared to December 2012, rates rose 15% for vans, 6.7% for reefers and 7.8% for flatbeds.

Reference rates are derived from DAT RateView and are for line haul only, excluding fuel surcharges, which increased on a month-over-month basis but declined compared to December 2012. 

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