Spot Van, Reefer Rates Retreat from Record Highs as Flatbeds Inch Higher

December 21, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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National average spot truckload rates for van and refrigerated freight eased down from record highs during the week ending Dec. 16, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.

The number of available loads increased 2.4% while available capacity dipped 7.5%, sending load-to-truck ratios higher for all three equipment types compared to the previous week.

As a national average, the van rate fell 2 cents to $2.08 per mile after hitting a three-year high during the previous week. It’s typical for van rates to decline from December through March, but concerns about capacity in the wake of the ELD mandate that kicked in on Dec. 18 may change seasonal rate trends, according to DAT. All reported rates include fuel surcharges.

Spot van load posts slipped 1% while truck posts fell 7% last week. Tighter capacity caused the van load-to-truck ratio to increase 9% to 7.8 loads per truck.

Rates in most of the major van markets were down last week, including Atlanta at $2.22 per mile, down 3 cents; Memphis at $2.37 per mile, down 3 cents; Los Angeles at $2.66 per mile, down 10 cents; and Chicago at $2.63 per mile, down 8 cents. The biggest lane-rate increase was from Columbus to Buffalo, up 31 cents to an average of $3.37 per mile. That was likely due to retail freight moving between two distribution hubs, according to DAT.

The national average spot refrigerated rate fell 4 cents to $2.36 per mile. Load posts increased 3% and truck posts decreased 7% compared to the previous week, propelling the load-to-truck ratio to rise 12% to 11 loads per truck.

A decline in long-haul traffic loosened truckload capacity on the top 75 reefer lanes and pushed average outbound rates lower in most places, although prices remain elevated for December. Examples include Green Bay at $3.49 per mile, down 15 cents; Chicago at $3.03 per mile, down 4 cents; Philadelphia at $2.84 per mile, 5 cents lower; Elizabeth, New Jersey  at $1.99 per mile, down 6 cents; and Los Angeles at $2.94 per mile, down 4 cents.

The national average flatbed rate increased 1 cent for the third week in a row, moving to $2.32 per mile. Flatbed prices are high for this time of year, and last week's rate is just 2 cents lower than the peak in October.

During this time the average price of on-highway diesel fuel fell a penny to $2.90 per gallon. Prices remain nearly 50 cents higher than this time last year.

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