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Spot Freight Rates Ease as Truck Demand Tapers

January 25, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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After an 18% gain the previous week, spot truckload volume retreated 14% for the week ending Jan. 21 as rates declined in two of the three different sectors, according to DAT Solutions.

The load board/freight matching services provider also reported available truck capacity increased 13% and load-to-truck ratios declined for all equipment types. However, freight volume and load-to-truck ratios started out higher than normal for this time of year and it’s typical for load counts to taper off.

The number of available vans increased 14% last week while van load posts were down 16%. The van load-to-truck ratio fell a full point from 3.9 to 2.9 loads per truck with the national average van rate down 2 cents over the past week to $1.70 per mile, its lowest level in the past four weeks.

The holiday retail season has now fully receded as spot van rates continue to soften in key markets, including:

  • Los Angeles, $1.95 per mile, down 5 cents
  • Chicago, $2.06 per mile, down 5 cents
  • Dallas, $1.54 per mile, down 2 cents
  • Atlanta, $1.88 per mile, down 2 cents
  • Philadelphia, $1.70 per mile, down 5 cents

Few lanes paid better last week, though backhaul lanes generally held firm, according to DAT. A couple lanes rebounded from large drops in previous weeks; Chicago-Buffalo paid an average of $2.41 per mile, 12 cents better than the week before while Buffalo-Charlotte was up 9 cents to $1.75 per mile.

The reefer load-to-truck ratio dropped to 6.7 loads per truck, a response to an 18% decline in load posts and 12% fall in the number of posted trucks. This pushed the national average rate down 2 cents to $1.98 per mile, which is 5 cents less than two weeks earlier.

There was a surge in reefer loads out of Dallas and McAllen, Texas and California in particular was more active after a week of difficult weather, according to DAT. Volumes are still light out of central Florida, since the main crop harvests for this season haven’t started yet, but the backhaul lane from Lakeland-Charlotte recovered 25 cents for an average of $1.46 per mile

In general, spot reefer rates were down across the Midwest and Northeast, and few lanes had big drops, For instance, Chicago-Philadelphia fell an average of 25 cents to $2.68 per mile. Also, the beer coolers for the Super Bowl in Houston must be full, because reefer rates from Denver-Houston fell 28 cents to a more typical $1.68 per mile.

Meantime, the average flatbed rate improved 1 cent from the previous week for a U.S. average of $1.90 per mile. Truck demand fell as load posts declined 10% and truck posts increase 12%. That sent the load-to-truck ratio down from 27.1 to 21.8 loads per truck.

All reported rates include fuel surcharges. At $2.59 per gallon, the average price of on-highway diesel fell 2 cents last week.

 

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