Big Spot Market Freight Gains in December, Year Begins on Down Note

January 14, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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Spot market freight volume was atypically strong for the season in December, while rates also moved higher, according to the truck freight load board operator DAT Solutions and its latest North American Freight Index.

Volume increased 3% percent compared to November, despite an overall December decline in 11 out of the past 15 years. Freight volume increased 5.3% for vans and 4.1% for refrigerated trailers, but flatbed freight availability dipped 1.2%.

As for rates when December is compared to November it rose 4.3% for vans, 2.1% for reefers, and 1.6% for flatbeds.

Compared to December 2013, overall volume rose 11%, the 18th consecutive month of year-over-year gains for the index, including increases of 27% for vans, 18% for reefers and 11% for flatbeds.

Rates also increased for the three major equipment categories in December compared to a year earlier. Van rates rose 15%, reefer rates increased 24% and flatbeds added 13%.

Meantime, separately released weekly figures for the U.S. for the first full week of the year, show lower numbers in terms of both rates and freight availability. Freight availability skyrocketed 51% Jan. 4 through Jan. 10 compared to the previous seven days, while spot market truck capacity surged 69%.

This resulted in lower rates across the board along with lower load-to-truck ratios. The average van rate declined 2.9% to $2.01 per mile. This was due party to a drop in the average fuel surcharge with diesel prices continuing their decline, though DAT said demand and rates in the sector remain strong for the season.

Reefer rates fell 1.3% to an average of $2.35 per mile while flatbed rates fell 0.9% to an average of $2.29 per mile, both also due partly to a lower average fuel surcharge.

Flatbeds led the decline in load-to-truck ratios, falling 28% to 16.5 loads per truck. Vans fell 11% to 3.9 loads per truck while reefers dropped 4% to 13.4 loads-per-truck.

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