Spot market freight rates declined across the board in the most recent week, following healthy gains the week before, according to the freight matching service provider DAT.

The average rate for flatbeds posted the biggest decline out of the three major categories, falling 2.8%, July 6 through July 12, compared to the previous seven days, hitting $2.47 per mile. Close behind are reefers, dropping 2% to $2.44 per mile. Vans fell an average of 0.9% to $2.13 per mile.

This happened as spot market truck capacity gained 28% but the number of loads available increased only 8.7% while load-to-truck ratios were down in the mid to upper-teens in all three freight categories.

June Rates Rise Above May and June 2013

Meantime, freight availability on the spot market was 50% higher in June compared to the same month the previous year, continuing a pattern of elevated activity in 2014, according to the DAT North American Freight Index, a measure of truckload freight demand and capacity in the United States and Canada.

The year-over-year increase was reflected in all three major equipment types: van loads grew 39%, refrigerated freight was up 51%, and flatbed volume rose 69%. 

Demand was driven by robust seasonal fruit and vegetable harvests combined with a surge of manufacturing and construction-related freight, according to DAT.

Greater demand and constrained capacity contributed to an increase in truckload rates in June. Compared to June 2013, the national average rate was up 15% for vans, 10% for reefers, and 14% for flatbeds.

Compared to May 2014, spot freight volume increased 9.8%. Van and reefer freight each were up 20%, while flatbed freight volume gained 3.7%.

Spot truckload rate increases were more modest: the average van rate rose 7.4%, reefers increased 6.0%, and flatbeds saw a 4.4% increase compared to the previous month.

Several factors appear to have contributed to record-high volume and rates on the spot truckload market this year, including disruptive weather, an improved economy, and seasonal fluctuations of freight and capacity, said DAT. As a result, shippers have increasingly relied on third-party logistics providers to meet the needs caused by the growing volume of exception freight.

Second quarter volume increased overall by 4.9% compared to the first quarter, reflecting a typical seasonal pattern.