A shift in seasonal trends drove spot market freight volumes down 5.3% in September, as reported by the DAT North American Freight Index. Freight volumes remained stable throughout much of the third quarter, instead of a more typical decline in July that is followed by mixed trends in August and September.

Compared to August, September load availability declined 1.6% for vans and 4.6% for flatbeds, but increased 1.1% for refrigerated trailers.

Third quarter volume was up 13% compared to the same period in 2012, but the second quarter lagged Q2 2012 by 16%. Year-to-date volume is 1.8% higher in 2013. These trends yielded a delayed, flattened peak that extended through Q3, as severe weather earlier in the year postponed agricultural and construction seasons and related freight movements.

Compared to September 2012, the index increased 22%, reaching the highest level recorded for the month of September since the Index was established in 1996. Van freight volume rose 12%, flatbed loads increased 43% and freight designated for reefers added 30%.

Spot market rates rose for vans and reefers but declined for flatbeds on both a month-over month and year-over-year basis. Compared to August, van rates rose 0.7% and reefer rates gained 1.9%, while flatbed rates declined 8.1%. Compared to September 2012, van rates increased 3.8% and reefer rates rose 4.5%, but rates declined 8.1% for flatbeds. Additional trend information and analysis is available at DAT Trendlines or the DAT blog.