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Spot Rates, Available Cargo Plummet from Previous Week

January 20, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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After spiking at the start of the year, truckload rates and load-to-truck ratios on the spot market slid downward during the week ending Jan. 16, according to load board operator DAT Solutions.

The reason is a 16% decline in the number of spot market loads available while truck capacity increased 27% from the week before. Also, the average cost of diesel plummeted 7 cents to $2.11 per gallon, the lowest since March 2009, causing fuel surcharges to also decline.

In the van freight market, load posts decreased 21% while the number of available trucks rose 29%. As a result, the van load-to-truck ratio dropped 38% with 1.7 van loads for every truck posted on the DAT network.

The national average van rate fell 2.9% to $1.68 per mile, which included a 1-cent decline in the average fuel surcharge, with rates falling on high-volume lanes originating in the Northeast, the Midwest, and on the West Coast.

All reported rates include fuel surcharges.

Reefer load posts decreased 26% and truck posts jumped 22% during the week as the national average reefer rate dropped 3.1% to $1.90 per mile, including a 1-cent drop in the fuel surcharge. The load-to-truck ratio fell 39% from 6.7 to 4 loads per truck.

Flatbed load volume held steady but available capacity increased 27%, yielding a 21% decline in the load-to-truck ratio from 10.5 to 8.3 loads per truck. Average flatbed rates edged lower to $1.90 per mile, down 1% compared to the previous week.

Spot market freight volume rebounded 15% in December, month over month, and truckload linehaul rates increased for the three primary trailer types, DAT reported. Compared to the extraordinary volume and rates of 2014, however, spot market indicators continued to lag.

Looking into 2016, assuming that total freight volume is stable or increases modestly, there should be an uptick in spot market van load availability and rates, supporting renewed growth for intermediaries, small to mid-sized for-hire fleets, and owner-operators, according to DAT Analyst Peggy Dorf in the DAT blog.

“As the first quarter is historically a slow period on the spot market, we can expect the recovery to begin in late spring, barring big, unexpected events that affect transportation,” she wrote.

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