DAT Solutions: On MembersEdge, flatbed freight remains a bright spot

Special to Land Line | Thursday, March 02, 2017

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn.

A couple of weeks ago it looked like the sun would come up on spot van and refrigerated truckload rates. And then the market rolled over and hit snooze.

Overall spot truckload freight volumes on MembersEdge improved marginally during the week ending Feb. 25 thanks to a 7 percent bump in the number of flatbed load posts. Vans and reefers continued to slumber, with volumes declining 5 percent and 6 percent respectively.

All told, national average outbound rates stirred little last week:

  • Van: $1.62/mile, unchanged
  • Reefer: $1.87/mile, down 1 cent
  • Flatbed: Unchanged at $1.96/mile

Ratios tell the story: Stronger flatbed volume and declining van and reefer freight posts were reflected in the week’s load-to-truck ratios:

  • Van ratio: 2.3 van loads per truck, down 7 percent
  • Reefer ratio: 4.4, down 6 percent
  • Flatbed ratio: 29.0, up 8 percent

Spot vans show life: Volumes slipped 5 percent overall, but activity on the top 100 van lanes may put upward pressure on spot rates.

But not yet: No major van market saw a big increase in the average outbound rate. Check out the key regional markets:

  • Los Angeles, $1.84/mile, unchanged
  • Chicago, $1.92/mile, down 2 cents
  • Dallas, $1.51/mile, unchanged
  • Atlanta, $1.83/mile, unchanged
  • Philadelphia, $1.60/mile, down 1 cent

Load counts were up in Atlanta, Chicago, and Memphis. That’s good news. But in terms of rates, Denver-Stockton – with an 11-cent gainwas the only lane among the top 100 van lanes that was up more than 7 cents for the week. The head-haul direction from Stockton fell 16 cents to $1.69/mile, though.

Flatbed trends: With vans and reefers in a lull, flatbed rates and volumes are climbing ahead of schedule. The flatbed load-to-truck ratio increased for the 4th week in a row; the number of posted loads was up 7 percent while truck posts declined 1 percent.

Weather or not: Some flatbed rate strength was due to freight activity, but weather also played a role:

  • Rock Island, Ill.-Minneapolis went from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to heavy snow late in the week. On average, the lane rate rose 39 cents to $2.55/mile.
  • Cleveland-Harrisburg, Pa., jumped 35 cents to $3.09/mile. It’s unusual for this lane to be above $3 a mile this time of year.
  • Raleigh-Baltimore paid 32 cents better on average at $2.61/mile—surprisingly high for February.

Leaning to port: Outbound spot flatbed rates trended down in Savannah, Jacksonville, and Los Angeles. All three are port cities, so lower outbound rates could be a sign of stronger exports than imports.

Reefers just chilling: The number of spot reefer load posts declined 6 percent against a 1 percent drop in truck posts. The national average reefer rate lost 1 cent for the third week in a row.

Rates mixed: Two bright spots were in the Northeast: Philadelphia at $2.28/mile (up 6 cents) and Elizabeth, N.J., at $1.67/mile (up a penny). Out West, Los Angeles averaged $2.32/mile, unchanged. In the South, Atlanta ($2.11/mile) and McAllen ($1.93/mile) both fell 2 cents on average.

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.

Copyright © OOIDA