National average spot van and refrigerated truckload rates ended 2017 at their highest point of the year as capacity tightened during the week ending Dec. 30. That’s according to newly released figures from DAT Solutions, based on its network of load boards, as the freight matching service provider also released its list of the top 10 hottest spot freight markets last year.

Last week, the number of available loads fell 22% while the number of available trucks decreased 36%, in line with expectations for a holiday-shortened business week. Load-to-truck ratios increased sharply for all three equipment types:

  • Van ratio, 12.3 to 1, up 22%, an all-time high for vans
  • Flatbed ratio: 52.3 to 1, up 26%
  • Reefer ratio: 23.7 to 1, up 33%

The ratios for flatbeds and reefers are exceptionally high, indicating tight van and reefer capacity. While it’s impossible to know for sure if the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that took effect in December is responsible for these hikes, it is certainly possible, as some owner-operators and company drivers threatened to get out of trucking if they were forced to do away with paper logs for recording their work hours.

In the van market, load posts were down 22% and truck posts fell 36%. The national average van rate increased 2 cents to $2.11 per mile, the highest national average in three and a half years.

Rates jumped significantly in major market over the past week, including: Los Angeles ($2.92 per mile, up 14 cents), Charlotte ($2.48 per mile, up 10 cents), Atlanta ($2.45 per mile, up 7 cents), Dallas ($2.12 per mile, up 18 cents), Buffalo ($2.82 per mile, up 15 cents), Philadelphia ($2.32 per mile, up 20 cents), Chicago ($2.95 per mile, up 15 cents), and Columbus, Ohio ($2.78 per mile, up 15 cents).

The national average spot refrigerated rate increased 6 cents to $2.46 per mile, its highest point since July 2014. Reefer load posts declined only 9% while the number of trucks posted plunged 32%.

Tighter capacity helped push up outbound rates in key reefer markets including: Grand Rapids, Michigan. ($3.74 per mile, up 29 cents), Chicago ($3.29 per mile, up 26 cents), Philadelphia ($3.03 per mile, up 21 cents), Los Angeles ($3.22 per mile, up 28 cents), Atlanta ($2.75 per mile, up 12 cents), Lakeland, Florida. ($1.58 per mile, up 19 cents), McAllen, Texas ($2.37 per mile, up 26 cents), and Dallas ($2.39 per mile, up 27 cents).

Flatbed load posts were down 32% and truck posts dropped off 46% last week. The national average flatbed rate held steady at $2.33 per mile compared to the previous week, just 1 cent lower than the peak rate in October.

The national average price of on-highway diesel fuel during this time was unchanged at $2.90 per gallon. Prices remain nearly 50 cents higher than this time last year. Spot truckload freight rates include a fuel surcharge portion.

DAT also released its list of the markets that had the most outbound load posts in 2017, with Atlanta taking the top spot in two of the three freight categories while Alabama had four cities in top 10 flatbed market category.

Top 10 Van Freight Markets

  1. Atlanta
  2. Houston
  3. Charlotte
  4. Dallas
  5. Chicago
  6. Indianapolis
  7. Memphis
  8. Columbus, Ohio
  9. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  10. Cleveland

Top 10 Refrigerated Freight Markets

  1. Atlanta
  2. Elizabeth, New Jersey
  3. Dallas
  4. Chicago
  5. Twin Falls, Idaho
  6. Philadelphia
  7. Charlotte
  8. Houston
  9. Indianapolis
  10. Joliet, Illinois

Top 10 Flatbed Markets

  1. Little Rock, Arkansas
  2. Decatur, Alabama
  3. Shreveport, Louisiana
  4. Jackson, Mississippi
  5. Houston
  6. Memphis
  7. Birmingham, Alabama
  8. Mobile, Alabama
  9. Montgomery, Alabama
  10. Cleveland

What stands out for 2017 is just how much freight there was. In 2016, Atlanta was the only market with more than 1 million van load posts on the DAT network of load boards. There were 14 markets with more than 1 million van load posts in 2017 and Atlanta was first market ever to crack the 2 million loads-posted mark.

The rankings are based on the DAT database of more than 170 million loads and trucks posted annually, according to the company.