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Spot Market Freight Availability Increases, Rates Move Little

September 3, 2014

By Evan Lockridge

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The number of posted loads on the spot-freight market outpaced available truckload capacity across all three major equipment types Aug. 24 through Aug. 30 compared to the previous seven days, according to DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards, however, rates generally remained in a holding pattern.

The total number of van, refrigerated, and flatbed loads posted was up 1.9% while available capacity dipped 5.4% compared to the previous week.

The national average van rate was unchanged for the fourth consecutive week at $2.00 per mile. The monthly average rate in August also was $2.00 per mile, down 2.9% compared to July. Compared to August 2013, however, the rate is up 8.7%.

Van freight availability increased 11% while capacity slid 5.9%, pushing the national average load-to-truck ratio up 18% to 3.7 loads per truck. On a per-month basis, the national load-to-truck ratio averaged 3.3 in August, a 5.2% increase compared to July and 25% greater than the level of August 2013.

In the refrigerated freight market, the national average spot rate held at $2.28 per mile for the week. As a monthly average, the rate for August declined 7 cents to $2.28 per mile. Rates have remained relatively strong for reefers through the summer, according to DAT, exceeding August 2013 averages by 19 cents or 9.1%.

Reefer freight availability increased 6.7% last week and capacity was up 1.4%, producing a reefer load-to-truck ratio of 10.8, up 5.2%. The monthly average load-to-truck ratio for August was 10.1, an 11% increase compared to July and 24% higher compared to August 2013.

The national average flatbed rate declined 1 cent to $2.43 per mile. Flatbed load availability dropped 4.8% and capacity fell 11%. The load-to-truck ratio increased 6.4% from 35.3 to 37.6 loads per truck.

On a monthly basis, flatbed load volume declined 2.4% in August compared to July while capacity was down 2.9%, so the load-to-truck ratio was mostly unchanged. Compared to August 2013, however, the ratio posted a 106% increase.

Load-to-truck ratios represent the number of loads posted for every truck posted on DAT load boards.

“Even if demand stagnates or wanes, rates are likely to rise due to carriers' operational costs as well as capacity constraints,” wrote DAT Analyst Mark Montague in DAT's Freight Talk Blog. “Fuel costs are stable, but labor and other costs are on the rise. Hours of service and the persistent driver shortage have hampered productivity for fleets of all sizes.”

He did warn that in the fourth quarter rates may plateau but they aren’t expected to drop.

“Demand usually tapers in the fourth quarter, but fleet costs aren't coming down,” Montague wrote. “Fuel prices may be stable, but there is increased pressure on fleets from the costs of labor and regulatory compliance. So when demand slackens in the fourth quarter of this year, rates are more likely to plateau than to drop significantly.”

 

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