The availability of spot truckload freight gained 4.8% and the number of trucks posted slipped 3.2%, while rates remained unseasonably high, for the week ending Nov. 4, according to DAT Solutions and its network of load boards.
National average spot van and reefer rates jumped after receding for three straight weeks while the flatbed rate declined after two months of steady increases. However, national average spot rates remain above seasonal norms:
- Van: $2.07 mile, up 4 cents from last week
- Flatbed: $2.34 per mile, down 5 cents from the week before
- Reefer: $2.36 per mile, up 5 cents from the previous week
(All rates cited include fuel surcharges.)
The number of van load posts increased 7% as retail freight enters the truckload distribution pipeline. Combined with a 4% decline in the number of trucks posted, this sent the van load-to-truck ratio up from 5.9 to 6.3 van loads per truck.
The van ratio has declined since hitting a peak of 7.0 loads per truck during the final week in September but is more than double what it was last year at this time.
Tighter capacity pushed spot market van rates higher across much of the country, as average outbound prices rose on 58 of the top 100 van lanes. Los Angeles remained the number one market for van load volume where the average outbound rate gained 11 cents to $2.49 per mile last week.
With holiday goods moving through the cold chain, the number of spot reefer load posts increased 18% last week. The reefer load-to-truck ratio increased from 9.7 to 11.8 loads per truck as available capacity fell 3%.
Of the top 72 reefer lanes, 39 had rising rates. Among the markets showing strength over the past week:
- Green Bay, $3.72 per mile, up 12 cents
- Chicago, $3.33 per mile, up 14 cents
- Elizabeth, New Jersey, $2.20 per mile, up 6 cents
- Los Angeles, $2.73 per mile, unchanged
Rebuilding efforts in Florida and the rest of the Gulf Coast have put tremendous pressure on flatbeds lately. Compared to September, flatbed load posts were up 5% in October while truck posts climbed 12%. That resulted in a 6% decline in the load-to-truck ratio compared to the previous month's spike. At 39.5 loads per truck, the ratio last month was 172% higher than in October 2016.
The national average price of on-highway diesel during this time ticked upward to $2.88 per gallon, the highest level since June 2015.
With spot freight rates being unseasonably higher than normal, this naturally begs one question: how much longer will rates stay this high?
“It could be a couple more months, at least,” said the latest DAT Blog. “Retail freight is expected to be more plentiful this year, and port traffic is way up. With the ELD mandate coming in December, it seems likely that prices will stay above normal for a while. Demand usually tapers off in February, so rates could slip lower then, until activity picks up again in the spring.”