Refrigerated freight volume showed unexpected strength on the spot market as the number of posted reefer loads fell just 1% for the week ending Dec. 26 compared to a 20% drop that’s typical during a holiday week, according to the latest numbers from DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards.
The number of reefer trucks posted declined 32%, indicating that some truckers stopped looking for loads at mid-week. This produced a reefer load-to-truck ratio of 5.2, a 45% increase compared to the previous week.
Despite this, the national average reefer rate was unchanged at $1.93 per mile, but rates rose in Philadelphia, Lakeland, Fla.; and McAllen, Texas, due to last-minute shipments of fresh produce for Christmas.
All reported rates include fuel surcharges.
Van load posts fell 22% while posted van capacity declined 33%. The van load-to-truck ratio increased 17% to 1.9 loads per truck.
The national average van rate was unchanged at $1.71 a mile despite a 1-cent reduction in the fuel surcharge. Outbound rates rose in Dallas, due to difficult weather conditions. Rates out of Philadelphia and Chicago got a boost from last-minute Christmas freight.
Flatbed load posts fell 34% and posted capacity was off by 40%. The national load-to-truck ratio rose 12% to 7.5 loads per truck, but the national average flatbed rate fell 0.5% to an average of $1.91 per mile due to a change in the fuel surcharge.
Despite rates remaining stagnant over the past week at best, truckers hauling spot freight managed to put a little more money in their pockets, with the price of national average cost of diesel sliding 4 cents to $2.24 per gallon.
There is some hope that rates could soon be headed higher, based on a frequent occurrence that changes in load-to-ratios often signal impending changes in rates. With improvements of 45%, 17% and 12% in the respective reefer, van and flatbed categories, rates that have been stagnant for much of the final quarter of the year could soon see new signs of life.