DAT Solutions: Spot flatbed market keeps climbing

Special to Land Line | Thursday, February 16, 2017

These days, the market for spot flatbed freight is anything but flat.

The national spot rate on MembersEdge averaged $1.96/mile for flatbed freight during the week ending Feb. 11. That’s the fourth straight week of increases and a 4-cent jump in the flatbed rate compared to the previous week.

The flatbed load-to-truck ratio gained as well, up 13 percent to 24.6 loads per truck nationally. The number of flatbed load posts rose 11 percent while truck posts declined 1 percent.

Flats have been a high point compared to spot van and reefer freight. But even that may be shifting:

Strong volumes: Overall, the number of spot van, reefer, and flatbed load posts increased 1.7 percent while truck posts gained 3.2 percent compared to the previous week. Those numbers are strong for this time of year.

Vans slip: Van volume was weaker, as the number of load posts declined 6 percent. A 3 percent increase in truck posts pushed the load-to-truck ratio lower from 2.6 to 2.4 loads per truck.

Rates bottoming out? Despite the declining van load-to-truck ratio, van freight volume rose 2.5 percent on the top 100 van lanes and is 2 percent higher than a month ago. Higher volume is a signal that rates may be bottoming out.

But not yet: The national average van rate fell 3 cents to $1.63/mile. Outbound rates gave ground in many major markets:

  • Los Angeles, $1.88/mile, down 2 cents
  • Chicago, $1.92/mile, down 2 cents
  • Atlanta, $1.84/mile, down 1 cent
  • Philadelphia, $1.53/mile, down 6 cents
  • Dallas, $1.48/mile, down 1 cent

Southwestern swings: Contract carriers have had a tough January and February, with volumes off in the Southwest. That puts a lot of trucks on the spot market and tamped down load-to-truck ratios in the region. While this may be the bottom for van rates, we won’t know for sure until ratios start to improve out there.

Reefers down, too: The reefer load-to-truck ratio slipped from 5.2 to 4.7 loads per truck nationally as the number of posted loads fell 7 percent and capacity decreased 5 percent. The average reefer rate edged down 2 cents to $1.89/mile last week.

Heating up: A burst of potato shipments helped propel reefer rates out of Miami last week:

  • Miami-Elizabeth, N.J., surged 35 cents to $1.84/mile
  • Miami-Boston was up 33 cents to $1.99/mile
  • Miami-Atlanta added 33 cents to $1.66/mile

Volume also spiked out of Lakeland. It’s too early for a seasonal surge of produce but more loads in Florida is a welcome change compared to recent weeks.

Northern chill: On the flip side, lanes from Idaho are softer. Twin Falls-Chicago dropped 27 cents to $1.63/mile last week.

Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on prevailing spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. All reported rates include fuel surcharges.

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, visit OOIDA’s MyMembersEdge.com load board, tune in to Land Line Now, and join the conversation on Twitter with @LoadBoards.

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