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Spot Truckload Rates Fairly Stable Despite Lower Freight Volume

February 1, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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Spot truckload freight volume continued a seasonal decline, falling 12% for the week ending Jan. 28 compared to the previous week, but overall rates moved little, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.

Unlike this time last year, spot freight activity did not drop off sharply toward the end of January as truck capacity increased 4.8%.

Van load posts were 9% lower last week as truck posts increased 4%, which sent the load-to-truck ratio down 13% to 2.5 loads per truck. The national average van rate edged down 1 cent to $1.69 per mile and is down 8 cents from the week of Jan. 7 while slipping again in key markets:

  • Los Angeles, $1.95 per mile, down 3 cents
  • Chicago, $2.01 per mile, down 6 cents
  • Atlanta, $1.88 per mile, down 1 cent
  • Buffalo, $1.94 per mile, down 3 cents

While Houston was one of a few major van markets where prices did not decline last week, unchanged at $1.54 per mile, outbound lanes from Dallas fell off the pace with Dallas-Houston falling 6 cents to $2.09 per mile and Dallas-Chicago down 1 cent to $1.13 per mile. All rates include fuel surcharges.

In the reefer market, while volumes actually improved on the top 72 lanes for refrigerated freight, the reefer load-to-truck ratio fell a full 20% to 5.3 to 1 nationally as the number of posted reefer loads declined 14% and capacity rose 8%. The average reefer rate lost just 1 cent to $1.97 per mile but is 6 cents less than it was three weeks earlier.

No single market or region is driving produce freight right now, so volumes are shifting around the country, according to DAT. Last week, the big swings were in the Midwest. The average rate from Grand Rapids-Madison, Wisconsin rose 31 cents to $2.71 per mile while Green Bay-Des Moines paid 13 cents better at $2.20 per mile.

Green Bay and Grand Rapids also happened to have two of the biggest declines last week. Green Bay-Joliet, Illinois fell 31 cents to $2.92 per mile and Grand Rapids-Atlanta declined 25 cents to an average of $2.12 per mile.

Flatbed load posts declined 15% and truck posts rose 3%. The load-to-truck ratio fell 17% to 18.1 loads per truck while the national average rate actually gained a penny to $1.91 per mile. Even with the small increase, rates are still down 1 cent from three weeks earlier after falling 3 cents the second week of the year.

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