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DAT: Spot Truckload Rates Steady, Poised for Spring Thaw

February 24, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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Shippers and brokers posted more loads on the spot market for the week ending Feb. 20 compared to the week before while the number of available trucks moved slightly lower, according to DAT Solutions and based on its network of load boards, but rates held steady during a time of year they usually gain at least a little.

Freight availability increased 4.1% as truck posting fell 2%, however, according to DAT, falling national average spot rates leveled off compared to recent weeks, indicating the start of a possible rise heading into the Spring.

In the van market, load posts increased 4% while available capacity declined 3%. The van load-to-truck ratio rose marginally with 1.4 van loads for every truck posted on the DAT network. Compared to the previous week, the national average van rate was unchanged at $1.58 per mile, though rates rose on high-volume lanes originating in Los Angeles, Dallas and Memphis, which may signal an upward trend to come.

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Flatbed load volume jumped 10% while capacity increased less than 1%. That yielded a 10% increase in the national flatbed load-to-truck ratio, from 9.6 to 10.6 loads per truck. The average flatbed rate held steady at $1.83 per mile, despite a 1-cent drop in the fuel surcharge.

The number of reefer load posts declined 6% while truck posts added 1% last week. As a result, the load-to-truck ratio fell 7%, from 3.1 to 2.9 loads per truck. The national average reefer rate fell to $1.83 per mile, also due to 1-cent fuel surcharge decline. Rates were all over the place, including $2.51 per mile heading out of Green Bay while it was just $1.26 outbound from Lakeland, Florida.

During this time, the national average diesel price was unchanged at $1.98 per gallon.

DAT noted that on the spot market, freight brokers usually quote a one-time price that includes both a line-haul portion and a fuel surcharge, meaning declining fuel prices, which has happened the past year and half, influences spot market rates significantly.

In the meantime, February is close to being over, and for those who depend on the spot market, that’s good news, because according to DAT, its also the slowest month of the year for freight and March can't get here soon enough.

In the company’s latest blog, Matt Sullivan, editor of DAT carrier news said things usually pick up with March with seasonal demand leading to a bump in prices. In fact, he said, freight volume was up recently in some mid-size markets, but it still hasn’t led to upward pressure on rates, at least not yet.

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