DAT Solutions: Rates dip as truckers head back to work

Special to Land Line | 1/17/2018

Freight activity on DAT MembersEdge keeps growing, as the number of posted loads was 17 percent higher during the week ending Jan. 13. While demand for trucks has pushed rates and load-to-truck ratios to record levels, national average rates were softer last week. What gives?

People are back to work. After holidays, disruptive weather, and the initial ELD deadline fallout, the number of available trucks jumped 52 percent last week. Load-to-truck ratios for all three equipment types edged down from record highs.

  • Van load-to-truck ratio – 10.7, down from 14.7 the previous week
  • Flatbed ratio – 53.7, down from 63.5 
  • Reefer ratio – 18.4, down from 25.2

Those ratios remain way above seasonal norms. National average spot rates also declined, but not by much.

  • Van – $2.28/mile, down 2 cents
  • Flatbed – $2.42/mile, down 1 cent
  • Reefer – $2.70/mile, down 1 cent

Van trends.  The number of van load posts increased 12 percent and truck posts surged 54 percent last week. Fifty-five of the top 100 van lanes had lower rates, but the weather, fuel prices, and post-holiday freight volumes have propped up van prices up in a lot of places.

Hot van markets. Cold temperatures and snowstorms helped push rates higher in the Northeast last week as shippers paid more to secure capacity. Buffalo-outbound was up 21 cents to $2.98/mile, building on a 5-cent increase the previous week. Outbound van rates elsewhere held firm.

  • Atlanta, $2.44/mile, down 2 cents
  • Houston, $1.99/mile, down 1 cent
  • Philadelphia, $2.29/mile, up 1 cent
  • Chicago, $3.00/mile, up 1 cent

Down to Beantown. Van rates are always high from Allentown-Boston to account for traffic, tolls, and the difficulty of finding loads out of Boston, but that lane hit what might have been an all-time high last week: up 47 cents to an average of $4.47/mile.

Reefer trends. Demand for refrigerated trailers is strong, with load posts up 6 percent last week. But volumes are down seasonally, and rates may have crested as we move deeper into a post-holiday period. Truck posts were up 46 percent compared to the previous week.

  • Up Mexico way. The biggest reefer rate increases for the month so far have been along the Mexican border in McAllen, Texas, and Nogales, Ariz. Check out these lanes:
  • McAllen-Chicago, up 77 cents to $2.73/mile
  • McAllen-Atlanta, up 58 cents to an average of $3.43/mile
  • Nogales-Chicago, up 70 cents to $3.11/mile

Flats get a bump. Flatbed load posts increased 35 percent after a 46 percent increase the previous week, and truck posts increased 60 percent.

Fuel holding at $3. The national average price of on-highway diesel fuel was unchanged at $3.00/gallon. Spot truckload freight rates include a fuel surcharge portion; the price of diesel will affect spot rates.

Tri-haul of the week

Van rates out of Dallas are down so if you’re making a delivery in North Texas, you might look to break up your return trip into two shorter hauls to boost your average rate per mile.

For example, van loads from Atlanta-Dallas paid an average of $1.87/mile last week while the return trip was down to $1.57/mile. You could put together a TriHaul route that runs through Joplin, Mo., where load availability is above the national average. Dallas-Joplin averaged $1.78/mile, an improvement over the straight trip back to Atlanta.

Now factor in the 350-mile trip from Joplin-Atlanta, where the rate was $3.01/mile. The extra leg adds about 200 miles, not counting deadhead, and the tri-haul would increase your average rate per loaded mile from $1.72 to $2.26. If you can make it work with your hours of service, this tri-haul will add about $1,300 in revenue, getting you about $4,000 for the three- or four-day trip.

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 the MyMembersEdge.com load board or tune in to Land Line Now. You can get all of the latest rate information at dat.com/industry-trends/trendlines, comment on the DAT Freight Talk blog, or join us on Facebook. On Twitter you can tweet your questions to us @LoadBoards and have your questions answered by DAT industry analyst Mark Montague.



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