Spot truckload freight rates posted impressive gains the first week of this month despite a small but typical decline compared to the week before, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards, as shippers rushed to move cargo before closing their books on the first quarter.

 The national average rate for vans and reefers each increased 6 cents to $1.69 per mile and $1.93 per mile, respectively. Flatbeds gained 4 cents for $2.07 per mile. Rates for all three sectors were also the highest out of the past four weeks. All rates include fuel surcharges.

While overall freight volume declined 1.7% and truck capacity gained 1.5%, the number of refrigerated load and truck posts was virtually unchanged compared to the previous week.The reefer load-to-truck ratio rose slightly to 6.8 loads per truck.

A 6% drop in van load posts contributed to an 8% decline in the van load-to-truck ratio to 3.4 to 1. Flatbed load posts held steady and truck posts increased slightly, which sent the flatbed load-to-truck ratio down 4% to 39.1 to 1.

In the van market, load counts in Atlanta rose and the average outbound rate gained 2 cents to $1.94 per mile last week. Rates increased on major inbound lanes, unusual for this time of year, according to DAT. Memphis-Atlanta paid 13 cents better at an average of $2.23 per mile compared to last week.

Freight volumes and rates slipped in the Charlotte market, which lost fruit in a mid-March freeze. That seemed to have a spillover effect into van capacity as Charlotte van rates dropped 3 cents to $1.89 per mile.

In the reefer sector, produce is picking up momentum as the average outbound rate from Lakeland, Florida., gained 9 cents to $1.48 per mile. Reefer load counts are expected to build in southern border markets as avocados and other goods ship out ahead of Cinco de Mayo.

At $2.04 per mile, McAllen, Texas, was unchanged compared to the previous week. Shipments out of the Santa Maria District pushed rates up out of the Fresno market, while Los Angeles reefer freight averaged $2.34 per mile, up 7 cents.

As for flatbeds, DAT said a strong March led to end-of-month spikes in rates, some of which subsided last week. Still, the flatbed segment looks strong and rates continue to rise. Flatbed load posts increased less than 1% last week and truck posts increased 4%.