Spot truckload freight volume slipped 1.2% and truck posts increased 2% for the week ending March 17, according to DAT Solutions and its load boards, while load-to-truck ratios and rates were relatively even, although both are considerably higher compared to a year ago.

The national average load-to-truck ratio for all freight was 14.1 to 1, meaning there were 14.1 loads for every available truck, nearly double what it was at this time last year.

Load-to-truck ratio for all three equipment types were stable week-over-week:

  • Van ratio: 6.8 to 1, unchanged
  • Flatbed ratio: 86.7 to 1, down slightly from 88.5
  • Reefer ratio: 10.1 to 1, down from 10.5

National average spot rates, which include fuel surcharges, were unchanged compared to the previous week but are well ahead of last year’s pace:

  • Van: $2.14 per mile, unchanged for the fourth week in a row but 51 cents higher year-over-year
  • Flatbed: $2.50 per mile, unchanged but 48 cents higher from a year earlier
  • Reefer: $2.40 per mile, unchanged for the third week in a row but 54 cents higher compared to last year

The number of van loads increased 3.1% last week and truck posts rose 2.2% last week. Overall, rates trended up on 54 of the top 100 lanes while 41 were down and five were unchanged.

Houston volume jumped 4.6% last week. Industrial freight has helped make Houston the leading van market in terms of growth in 2018 so far, according to DAT. Houston-Oklahoma City, a key lane for energy-related freight, gained 22 cents for a rate of $2.35 per mile.

Refrigerated freight volume rose 9% last week, led by increases in 13 of 17 major markets. They include Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the Midwest; Sacramento and Twin Falls, Idaho, in the West; New Jersey and Philadelphia in the Northeast; and Dallas in the South Central.

California reefer volumes were up 7.6% last week and Florida volumes are gaining strength as fresh fruits and vegetables start to move. Chicago load availability jumped 16% and rates on several outbound lanes were higher, including Chicago-Philadelphia, up 36 cents to $3.53 per mile and Chicago-Kansas City, up 36 cents to $3.53 per mile.

Capacity in the flatbed market remains tight, as flatbed load posts declined 4% and truck posts dropped 2%.