Spot market freight volumes reported by the DAT North American Freight Index finished the first quarter of 2013 up 7.7% compared to the first quarter of 2012 and rose 11% over the previous quarter.

After an unusually strong January, freight volumes dipped seasonally in February and continued to follow typical patterns in March with a 37% increase over the previous month. However, spot market freight availability in March was 4.5% below the same-month total in 2012.

Compared to February, March spot market freight volumes expanded for all equipment types: van loads increased 26%, refrigerated ("reefer") rose 33%, and flatbed loads were up 48%.

Compared to March 2012, spot market van loads increased 1.5% and reefer freight availability rose 3.6%, however, flatbed freight volume declined 11%.

Spot market rates in March rose compared to February across all equipment types. Rates for both vans and flatbeds increased 2.4% and reefer rates rose 2.1%. On a year-over-year basis, rate and freight volume demand trends were consistent for each equipment type, rising 1.6% for vans and 1.4% for reefers but declining 4.3% for flatbeds.

Looking ahead to May, the best combination of load volume and a favorable ratio of outbound loads should be found in the Southeast, particularly Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia.

Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which is based on $18 billion of actual transactions paid by brokers, 3PLs and shippers to carriers. Reference rates are for line haul only, excluding fuel surcharges.