DAT Solutions: Spot market rates end Q1 with a flourish

Special to Land Line | 4/6/2016

The end of March is the end of a fiscal term, when shippers scour the spot market for trucks to help them move freight out the door before they have to close their books for the quarter.

Spot truckload freight volume was up 11 percent nationally while the number of truck posts dipped 5.5 percent during the week ending April 2, according to DAT Solutions, which operates the OOIDA MembersEdge load board.

Van and flatbed rates responded with increases while the average refrigerated rate stayed put, a perfect setup for the good, the bad, and the takeaway of the week in the spot market:

The good
The national average van load-to-truck ratio was 1.9, meaning there were 1.9 available van loads for every truck posted on the DAT load board network. The good news is that van rates are climbing in the most popular lanes, especially in the Southeast and South Central regions.

Outbound rates each rose a penny in Charlotte (to average of $1.82 a mile), Atlanta ($1.73), and Dallas ($1.52). Greenville, S.C., had a load-to-truck ratio of 2.6 – well above the national average of 1.9, which means Greenville was a great place to find loads.

Rates were way up in both directions between Dallas and Houston, a 480-mile roundtrip that produced an average of $1.97 a mile. Dallas to Houston was the higher-paying lane, but for some reason there were more loads and a higher load-to-truck ratio going from Houston to Dallas.

As a national average, the spot van rate was up 1 cent to $1.57 per mile.

The bad
Refrigerated spot truckload rates out of McAllen, Texas, fell 5 cents to an average of $1.80 per mile. Until a few weeks ago, McAllen, on the Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley, was the top source of reefer load posts on DAT MembersEdge. Now it’s No. 5, after Atlanta, Los Angeles, Tucson and Dallas.

It’s an indicator that produce harvest activity is shifting north to areas like Central California, where Fresno was up 7 cents to an average of $1.86 per mile.

It’s also important to note that Easter was early this year, so there was a big push to get fresh food into supermarkets and restaurants earlier in March instead of April. So reefer rates are trending up, but it’s a gradual increase, nothing dramatic.

The reefer load-to-truck ratio was 3.2 last week, a 5 percent improvement. As a national average, the spot reefer rate was unchanged at $1.58 per mile.

The takeaway
If you ever needed proof that March is a month of transition, look no further than month-over-month and year-over-year freight volumes at DAT.com/TrendLines. The total number of spot market loads posted in March was 42 percent higher compared to February—yet still 28 percent lower compared to March 2015.

As always, use your load board to maximize your revenue. Our van TriHaul of the Week involves Memphis-Indianapolis, a 932-mile roundtrip that would pay an average of $1.68 a mile ($1,561 total). Adding a third leg on the return trip from Memphis could boost your average to $2 a mile for total revenue of $1,929. If it works with your schedule, you could increase your average by 33 cents a mile and add between $350 and $400 in revenue.


Look for the latest load availability and rate information at OOIDA’s MyMembersEdge.com. And tune in to Land Line Now, where Terry Scruton talks with DAT’s Mark Montague for details on spot truckload rates.

(Editor’s note: The analysis above is provided to Land Line as a reader service from DAT Solutions. Rates and trends reported are reflected in the DAT Solutions network of load boards.)

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