DAT Solutions: Spot freight slows but steady

Special to Land Line | 1/31/2018

Spot truckload rates on DAT MembersEdge dipped for the third straight week as the number of load posts fell 3 percent and truck posts were up 8 percent. 

That’s a normal pattern heading into February.

But slow and steady can still win the race. Rates are higher than at any point in 2017 and load-to-truck ratios are more than twice as high as they were at this time last year.

  • Van: 8.5 available loads per truck, down from 9.8
  • Flatbed: 53.9 loads per truck, unchanged
  • Refrigerated: 12.8 loads per truck, falling from 12.8

National average rates
The van and flatbed rate each fell 1 cent to $2.26 per mile and $2.39 per mile respectively. The rate for refrigerated freight decreased 3 cents to $2.60 per mile as produce and other temperature-controlled goods experience a seasonal lull.

Van trends
Van rates have been trending down for three weeks but $2.26 per mile is still really high. Last year, the national average in January was just $1.67 per mile. Rising fuel costs have added to the pressure on prices, but the big story is still the tight capacity that resulted from the ELD mandate.

Hot markets
Atlanta and Houston were the only two major van markets to buck the national trends last week. Load counts were up 27 percent in Atlanta (where the average outbound rate was unchanged at $2.36 per mile) and surged 33 percent out of Houston (up 2 cents at $2.04 per mile). Warmer weather around the Great Lakes has brought van rates back down to earth in Midwest van markets, including Chicago ($2.92 per mile, down 15 cents) and Columbus, Ohio ($2.78 per mile, down 9 cents).

Reefer trends
Reefer load posts fell 14 percent and truck posts increased 4 percent. The national average reefer rate dipped but prices are strong in high-traffic ag markets, such as these:

  • Green Bay ($4.18 per mile, up 18 cents),
  • McAllen, Texas ($2.95 per mile, down 4 cents),
  • Atlanta ($2.89 per mile, down 4 cents),
  • Los Angeles ($3.19 per mile, down 13 cents).

Flatbed trends
Spot prices for flatbed freight remain high. The national average flatbed rate slipped 1 cent to $2.39 per mile but is buoyed by stronger construction and oilfield activity. Houston is the No. 1 market for flatbed loads, and volumes have improved there, though rates haven’t followed suit.

Tri-haul of the week
Van loads from Memphis to Dallas paid $2.77 per mile on average last week but the return averaged only $1.49. If you do the 900-mile roundtrip in two days, you average $2.13 per mile and $1,000 per day. If you’re held over to a third day, a tri-haul can add loaded miles at a higher rate. Dallas to Fayetteville, Ark., paid $2.20 per mile last week and Fayetteville to Memphis averaged $3.34 per mile. This adds about 200 loaded miles.

If you negotiate the market average for all those loads, the rate per loaded mile would jump from $2.13 to $2.76 and boost revenue to a little over $3,000 for the tri-haul. Finishing the tri-haul in three days keeps you at $1,000 per day, which is a pretty good return on your time and the use of your truck.

Chart showing rates for a tr-haul run

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 per industry-trends per 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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