Despite a 2.5% decline in the number of loads available and nearly a 1.4% increase in truck capacity on one of the nation’s biggest spot freight markets, rates picked up recently.

DAT reports reefers posted a 1.3% increase in its average rate May 4 through May 10, compared to the previous seven days, hitting $2.29 per mile, due to its seasonal climb and its load-to-truck ratio improving by 1.3%.

Van rates showed a 0.5% improvement, hitting $1.96 per mile, but that’s still 10 cents less that it was the week of April 19, while flatbeds lost just 0.4% at $2.35 per mile, close to where its been during the past month.

Load-to-truck ratios for vans fell 2.3% during this time while it moved 6.3% lower for flatbeds.

April Freight Volume Slips

Meantime, truckload freight levels on DAT’s spot market began a gradual decline toward seasonal norms in April, following extraordinary volume in the first quarter, according to its North American Freight Index

“Extreme weather, as well as economic and regulatory factors, reduced fleet productivity and disrupted supply chain operations throughout the winter, driving a larger proportion of shippers and intermediaries to the spot market for elusive truck capacity,” the company said.

Spot market freight volume continued to trend well above historic norms in April, up 51% compared to the same month in 2013. Freight designated for vans, the predominant equipment category, was up 48%, refrigerated freight increased 53% and flatbed freight saw a 66% increase.

Compared to the record-breaking levels of March, however, total freight volume slipped 8.8% in April. A decline from March to April has occurred twice in the last 5 years, according to DAT. Month-over-month, April van and reefer freight volume contracted 22% and 25%, respectively. Flatbed loads increased 10% month over month in an expected seasonal pattern.

Significant year-over-year rate increases accompanied the unusually high volume for all three major equipment types. Rates rose 19% for vans, 20% for reefers, and 12% for flatbeds, compared to April 2013. On a month-over-month basis, however, van rates declined 3.8% from March's record highs. Rates rose 2.3% for reefers and 4% for flatbeds, due to strong seasonal trends that affect cargo availability for those equipment types.