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Spot Freight Volume Up Slightly Over Past Week, Rates Flat

March 1, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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Spot truckload freight volumes improved a bit during the week ending Feb. 25 thanks to a 7% gain in flatbed load posts, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards, but rates were virtually unchanged.

Van and refrigerated freight posts declined 5% and 6%, respectively. Stronger flatbed volume and declining van and reefer freight posts were reflected in the week’s load-to-truck ratios:

  • Van ratio: 2.3 available loads per truck
  • Reefer ratio: 4.4 available loads per truck
  • Flatbed ratio: 29 available loads per truck

While spot load-to-truck ratios remain solid for February, they did little to move national average outbound rates, while the national average price of diesel gained 1 cent to $2.57 per gallon:

  • Van: $1.62 per mile, unchanged
  • Reefer: $1.87 per mile, down 1 cent
  • Flatbed: Unchanged at $1.96 per mile

While van volumes slipped 5% overall, more activity on the top 100 van lanes may soon bring upward pressure to spot rates, according to DAT. But not yet, as no major van market saw a big increase in the average outbound rate:

  • Los Angeles, $1.84 per mile, unchanged
  • Chicago, $1.92 per mile, down 2 cents
  • Dallas, $1.51 per mile, unchanged
  • Atlanta, $1.83 per mile, unchanged
  • Philadelphia, $1.60 per mile, down 1 cent

The number of spot reefer load posts declined 6% against a 1% drop in truck posts. The national average reefer declined for the third week in a row.

Average rates out of were major reefer markets were mixed. Two bright spots were in the Northeast. Philadelphia hit $2.28 per mile, up 6 cents from last week, and Elizabeth, New Jersey was, at $1.67 mile, up 1 cent. In the West, Los Angeles averaged $2.32 per mile, unchanged. In the South, both Atlanta, at $2.11 per mile, and McAllen, Texas, hit $1.93 per mile, down 2 cents on average.

With vans and reefers in a seasonal lull, flatbed rates and volumes are climbing ahead of schedule.

The flatbed load-to-truck ratio increased for the 4th week in a row as load posts increased 7% and truck posts declined 1%. Some strength is due to increased freight activity but weather played a role as well.

For example, Rock Island, Illinois-Minneapolis went from 70 degrees to snow storms late in the week. On average, the lane rate rose 39 cents to $2.55 per mile. Cleveland-Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, jumped 35 cents to $3.09 per mile, a route where it’s unusual to be above $3 per mile this time of year. Raleigh-Baltimore paid 32 cents better on average at $2.61 per mile, surprisingly high for February, according to DAT.

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