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Spot Rates Improve Little Over Past Week, Month

September 15, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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Spot truckload freight rates saw more declines than improvements in both new weekly and monthly figures released by DAT Solutions based on its load boards.

For the week ending Sept. 10, refrigerated freight posted the only gain in the three major sectors, with the average rate increasing 1 cent from the week before to $1.93 per mile. Prices showed gains in Philadelphia and Grand Rapids, but were lower in Dallas. 

Dry van rates were unchanged at an average of $1.66 per mile, while flatbed rates dropped 3 cents to an average of $1.87 per mile. Outbound dry van rates rose in Dallas and Philadelphia, but fell in Los Angeles, according to DAT.

The number of total posted loads fell 13% from the previous week as truck posting declined 15%. The average fuel cost during the period fell 0.4% to a national average of $2.40 per gallon.

The drop in truck postings, however, translated into a 21% improvement in the flatbed load-to-truck ratio, coming in at 12.2 loads per truck.

In contrast, load-to-truck ratios fell for both reefers and vans, 9.1% and 0.4%, respectively. Reefer load posts fell 17% last week while truck posts declined 9%, yielding 6.0 loads per truck.

Van load posts and truck posts both declined 17%, indicating relative strength for the four-day Labor Day week, said DAT. More importantly, the van load-to-truck ratio held steady at 3.2 loads per truck, the highest ratio for vans since July.

Looking back at the entire month of August, spot truckload freight availability climbed as the number of loads on the spot market surpassed same-month levels from the previous year for the first time since December 2014, according to DAT's North American Freight Index.

Led by a 32% jump in van loads and a 31% gain in refrigerated freight, spot freight volume on the DAT network of load boards was 11% higher in August compared to August 2015.

Flatbed freight volume declined 16% year-over-year, however, due partly to prolonged cutbacks in key flatbed sectors including oil and gas, steel, coal, construction, and manufacturing, according to DAT.

Month-over-month, spot market freight volume increased 1.5% to the second-highest level this year. Van freight added 8.7% and reefer volume surged 24% but flatbeds lost 16% in August, compared to July.

Higher van and reefer freight volumes did not translate to higher linehaul spot rates.

Compared to August 2015, the average line haul rate fell 6.6% for vans, as reefer rates dipped 5.1% and flatbed rates lost 7.2%.

The average fuel surcharge, a component of the total rate paid to carriers, fell 17% year-over-year, driving down the total revenue per mile by 8% for vans, 6.9% for reefers, and 8.2% for flatbeds.

On a month-over-month basis, national average rates declined in August from an atypical July peak. The van rate edged down 0.7% to $1.41 per mile, reverting to the average rate for June. The reefer rate lost 1.7% as a national average and the flatbed rate fell 1.2%.

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