Spot Freight Index Drops Slightly as 2017 Begins

February 13, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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A measure of the spot truckload freight market edged downward in January as the level of freight settled into a typical post-holiday pattern, though at significantly elevated levels compared to this time last year.

The DAT North American Freight Index dropped 2.5% in January compared to an exceptionally strong December and was 56% higher year-over-year, according DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.

Spot van, refrigerated, and flatbed rates in January were higher year-over-year, but an influx of capacity from contract carriers onto the spot market, particularly on high-traffic lanes, depressed rates compared to December.

"Coming off a high in December, January was still very solid for spot freight," said Don Thornton, senior vice president at DAT. "As a result we saw more contract carriers make their trucks available on load boards, and the added capacity contributed to lower rates on many high-traffic lanes."

Compared to December, the volume of van freight on the spot market was down 9% last month but up 63% year-over-year. The national average rate for vans was $1.68 per mile including a fuel surcharge, down 5 cents compared to December but up 2 cents year-over-year. (All rates cited are for line-haul only, except where noted.)

Refrigerated freight followed a similar trend. The number of available loads fell 8% in January but was 57% higher year-over-year. Available capacity rose 1%.

The national average spot rate for refrigerated freight was $1.96 per mile including a fuel surcharge, 3 cents lower than December but 6 cents higher compared to January 2016.

Demand for flatbed trucks rose 18% compared to December and 64% year-over-year. Available capacity rose just 3%.

At $1.91 per mile, the national average flatbed rate was 5 cents lower compared to December but was 3 cents higher year-over-year.

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