The number of available loads on the spot truckload freight market surged last week compared to the previous week as expected, following the Thanksgiving holiday, while rates moved to their best levels out of the last four weeks, according to DAT Solutions.

Less expected was the unseasonably high number of loads posted to the DAT network of load boards during the week ending Dec. 3, a 64% jump in the number of available loads compared to a 13% increase in the number of posted trucks.

The spot van load-to-truck ratio is the highest since June 2014 while the refrigerated ratio is at its highest since March 2015, according to DAT. The van load-to-truck ratio skyrocketed 61% to 4.7 loads per truck. Impressive, but lesser gains were seen by reefers and flatbeds, increasing 36% and 27% respectively, with the reefer ratio at 8.2 to 1 and flatbeds at 18.8 to 1.

With demand on the upswing, rates rose across all three equipment types with vans leading the way with an 8 cents increase for an average of $1.74 per mile. Reefers increased 1 cent to an average of $1.96 per mile while flatbeds gained 2 cents for an average of $1.91 per mile.

All rates include fuel surcharges. The average price of on-highway diesel gained 2.4% compared to the previous week at $2.48 per gallon.

The number of van load posts soared 80% and truck posts increased 11% week-over-week. Spot van rates stayed strong in key regional markets:

  • Chicago, $2.09 per mile, unchanged
  • Dallas, $1.57 per mile, up 2 cents
  • Charlotte, $2.02 per mile, up 5 cents
  • Buffalo, New York, $2.12 per mile, up 10 cents
  • Los Angeles, $2.16 per mile, down 3 cents

Reefer load posts were up 49% last week and truck posts increased 9%. With holiday produce on the move, the national average rate for November was 6 cents higher than October’s average, but prices are now tailing off in produce markets.

For instance, crops out of Green Bay are mostly finished and prices on some lanes fell hard. Green Bay-Joliet, Ill., was down 36 cents to $1.97 per mile. Outbound from California, loads on the Ontario-Chicago lane paid 20 cents less last week at $1.71 at per mile, and Fresno-Boston slipped 17 cents to $1.91 per mile. Miami rates slipped after big gains in the previous week. Miami-Boston fell 22 cents to $1.63 per mile, and Miami-Elizabeth, New Jersey, dropped 21 cents to $1.47 per mile

Flatbed demand bounced back after Thanksgiving as the number of flatbed load posts increased 59% and truck posts gained 26% compared to the previous week.

Overall, there have been strong signs of growth in the spot market since May, but it had mostly been a slow-and-steady climb, however that changed last week, according to Matt Sullivan, editor of DAT Carrier News in the company blog.

"December started with the highest week of volumes that we've seen on the spot market in the past two years,” he wrote.  “Part of the uptick in loads was because people were back at work after taking time off for Thanksgiving, but the bigger driver was the economy -- especially e-commerce.”

You can read more about what’s possibly in store for the remainder of the December spot truckload freight market on the DAT blog.