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Capacity Tight as Spot Truckload Rates Trek Higher

October 5, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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The number of available loads on the spot truckload freight market jumped 5.4% for the week ending Sept. 30 while tight capacity moved freight rates higher, according to new numbers from DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.

Overall the number of available trucks dropped 3.2% last week which helped push load-to-truck ratios higher for all three equipment types:

  • Van: 7 loads per truck, up 10%
  • Flatbed: 50.2 loads per truck, up 16%
  • Refrigerated: 12.4 loads per truck, up 2%

National average spot truckload rates, which include fuel surcharges, continue to simmer at two-year highs:

  • Van: $1.97 per mile, up 3 cents compared to the previous week. That’s 19 cents higher versus the same period in August and 35 cents higher year over year
  • Flatbed: $2.27 per mile, up 2 cents from the week before and up 8 cents month-over-month
  • Reefer: $2.23 per mile, up 1 cent from last week and up 15 cents month-over-month

In the spot van market, the national average rate rose for the fifth straight week. Rates and volumes are coming back down to normal after the storms in the Southeast, but supply chains throughout the rest of the country are still feeling the ripple effects, according to DAT. Columbus and Chicago are key distribution points for the Midwest and Northeast, but van freight volume and rates to Southeast markets picked up due to strong seasonal demand and supply chain disruptions following Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

  • Columbus-Allentown, surged 50 cents to an average of $3.86 per mile
  • Columbus-Memphis climbed 37 cents to $2.28 per mile
  • Chicago-Denver added 38 cents at $3.05 per mile
  • Chicago-Buffalo was up 37 cents to $3.27 per mile
  • Chicago-Dallas rose 18 cents to $2.45 per mile

Reefer load posts increased 1% and truck posts declined 1% last week. The ratio of 12.4 reefer loads per truck is the highest in years. Likewise, flatbed freight is moving in larger volumes to support rebuilding efforts in Florida and the Gulf Coast. Last week flatbed load posts increased 7% and truck posts declined 8%, which caused the load-to-truck ratio to rise to 50.2 loads per truck, the highest in recent memory, according to DAT.

Notably, the week ending Sept. 30 marks the end of the third quarter and it’s worth noting truck capacity tends to be in higher demand before the close of a business quarter as shippers look to move inventory.

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