Spot market freight volumes reported by the DAT North American Freight Index declined 16% compared to the record April high in 2012. The year-over-year freight declines were seen across all equipment types: van load volume declined, refrigerated loads slipped 10% and flatbed freight dropped 15%.

At a time of year when a month-over-month increase in spot market freight volume is expected, the DAT Freight Index declined by 5.8%. Although atypical, freight volumes are reminiscent of those experienced in April of 2011. Unusually inclement weather, including floods in the upper Midwest, may have been a factor. Freight availability declined 14% for vans and 17% for reefers, but rose 6.6%, compared to March.

Compared to April 2012, spot market rates declined along with demand for vans and flatbeds, but reefer rates saw an increase. Van rates slipped 0.8% and flatbeds dropped 5.3% while reefer rates rose 2.0%.

Writing on the DAT Freight Talk blog, Mark Montague, analyst for the company, offered some possible reasons for what happened to van and flatbed loads compared to a year ago.

“The trucking industry added 11,700 jobs in April, after losing 6,300 in March. That brings the total number of trucking jobs to 45,300 in the past 12 months,” he wrote. “Compared with the lackluster jobs reports for the same period, our industry is booming, and is responsible for 7% of all the hiring nationwide. More drivers means more trucks on the road,  or at least available. When capacity is looser, it puts downward pressure on rates.”

Despite the softness in spot market freight volumes, rates rose in April across all equipment types, compared to March. Van rates rose 0.8%, flatbed rates increased 4.5% and reefer rates climbed 5.5%.

The monthly DAT North American Freight Index reflects spot market freight availability on the Transcore DAT network of load boards in the United States and Canada.