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Spot Market Freight Rates Continue to Languish

September 16, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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Rates and the amount of available freight on the spot market continue to be lackluster, but there is an indication prices could pick up at least somewhat in the near future.

Figures released from the freight matching service provider DAT Solutions, based on their network of load boards, show van rates fell Sept. 6-12 compared to the previous week by 0.6% to an average of $1.77 per mile. That follows a small gain last week.

The average flatbed rate turned in a similar performance, falling 0.5%, to an average of $2.03 per mile. That's its lowest out of the past four weeks, despite an uptick in demand during the Labor Day holiday week.

Reefer rates were unchanged during the period at an average of $2.04 per mile – the same as it has been for three out of the past four weeks. Outbound rates rose in the Pacific Northwest and parts of California, as well as the Upper Midwest, while an off-season surge in demand also boosted reefer rates in Texas in McAllen and Dallas, according to DAT.

Much of the reason for the rate stagnation is the number of spot market loads available fell 13% during the period as available truck capacity declined by 18%.

On the upside, all three sectors showed increased load-to-truck ratios, which can be indicative of higher rates to come.

Flatbeds recorded a 13% increase to 11.3 loads per truck, as flatbed load availability slipped 11%, and truck posts declined 21%.

Vans saw a 4.9% improvement, pushing the load-to-truck ratio from 2.0 to 2.1 loads per truck aslLoad availability declined 15% and truck capacity dropped 19% last week.

Reefers posted a more modest 2.6% increase due to a 12% drop in load posts and a 15% slide in truck capacity, resulting 5.2 loads available per truck. Part of the increase was likely due to potatoes starting to roll out of Idaho and apples being shipped from Wisconsin, according to DAT Analyst Peggy Doft in the DAT blog.

Despite the slightly encouraging news, spot market rates last month were well below those from a year earlier, due to dramatically lower freight volume, according to numbers put out earlier this week by DAT from its North American Freight Index.

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