After a 17% jump the previous week, spot truckload freight volume increased a modest 1.3% during the week ending March 11 while rates gave back at least part of their gains from the week before, according to DAT Solutions' network of load boards.

The national average van rate fell 3 cents to $1.63 per mile while the refrigerated rate slipped 1 cent to $1.87 per mile. The flatbed rate also dipped 1 cent to $2.01 per mile, after a 6 cents gain the previous week. This follows the first week-over-week increase in all national averages in more than a month.

All reported rates include fuel surcharges. This happened as the national average cost of diesel fell 0.8% from last week to $2.56 per gallon.

Load-to-truck ratios held firm with vans down 2% to 2.8 loads per truck while reefers moved 1% higher to 5.8 to 1 and flatbeds increased 4% to 35.8 loads per truck.

While weather has upended planting and harvest schedules in California and elsewhere, one reefer market that has particularly stayed hot is Texas, home to three of the top five markets for reefer load posts last week, according to DAT.

McAllen was second behind Atlanta and had some sizzling rate increases, including outbound to Atlanta, up 24 cents for an average of $2.12 per mile; Elizabeth, New Jersey, up 18 cents to $2.09 per mile; and Chicago, gaining 16 cents to $1.97 per mile. Houston was the nation’s number three reefer market, followed by Elizabeth and Dallas rounding out the top five.

Outbound van load volume on the spot market declined 2.5% and truck posts held steady. While average outbound van rates were mixed in key markets across the country, some lanes showed pricing strength:

  • Dallas-Houston was up 5 cents to $2.11 per mile
  • Dallas-Chicago paid 4 cents better on average at $1.14 per mile
  • Chicago-Buffalo rose 13 cents to an average of $2.30 per mile
  • Chicago-Los Angeles, generally a low-paying lane, but it paid 9 cents better at $1.26 per mile to compensate a bit for a weaker-than-normal market in Los Angeles, which averaged $1.82 per mile outbound.

Investment in natural gas facilities along the Gulf Coast contributed to a big uptick in spot freight activity in the Houston flatbed market, according to DAT. Last week, the average van rate from Houston-New Orleans was up 10 cents to $2.09 per mile. Flatbed loads like construction materials and machinery are also moving through Houston.