Spot market freight availability rose 24% in January, exceeding December levels for only the second time since 1996, according to new figures from the the freight-matching service provider DAT.

It North American Freight Index shows more freight flowed to the spot market in both December and January as shippers and their contracted carriers struggled to meet capacity challenges caused by extreme weather.

Year-over-year freight volumes increased 45% to a record level not experienced since October 2005, when pent-up demand drove volume to an all-time high in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Van freight increased 52% reefer loads added 83% and flatbed freight nearly doubled, with a 93% increase.

Load availability in January rose 21% for both vans and reefers, while flatbed loads increased 33% compared to the prior month.

Rates on the spot market also remained unusually high in January, despite a slight decline from December's rate surge. Rates dipped 1.4% for vans, 0.6% for reefers and 5.5% for flatbeds. Compared to January 2013, rates rose 16% for vans, 4.7% for reefers and 4% for flatbeds.

Rates are cited for line haul only, excluding fuel surcharges, which increased on a month-over-month basis but declined compared to January 2013. DAT’s North American Freight Index reflects spot market freight availability on the TransCore DAT network of load boards in the United States and Canada. 

Spot market freight rates and activity for the U.S. through Feb. 8 can be found by reading a story from earlier this week