Reaching the highest-ever volume for the month of December, the DAT North American Freight Index increased 5% in December compared to December 2011.

However, compared to unusually robust November levels, spot market freight volume declined 18.4% month-over-month. This trend follows a typical seasonal pattern between November and December; volume dropped in eight of the past ten years, for a ten-year average decline of 13%. The DAT North American Freight Index is a measure of spot market freight availability in the U.S. and Canada.

The seasonal trend in freight volume in the U.S. affected all three of the major equipment categories, month-over-month. Compared to December 2011, however, U.S. van freight volume increased 13.1% last month, while refrigerated freight levels were stable and flatbed freight availability dropped 7.3%.

Following a similar pattern, rates declined for all three equipment types in December: van, reefer and flatbed rates declined 4.3%, 3.8% and 7.8%, respectively, compared with November. Compared to December 2011, van rates rose 0.8%, while reefer rates dipped 2% and flatbed rates dropped 7.3&.

Rates are derived from the DAT Truckload Rate Index, and do not include fuel surcharges, which declined by one cent in December on a month-over-month basis and increased year-over-year for all equipment types. Spot market rates are paid by brokers and 3PLs to the carrier.

Looking ahead to February, typically a slow season on the spot market, the best combination of load volume and a favorable ratio of outbound loads should be found in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana in the Midwest, and in the Southeastern states of Georgia and North Carolina.