DAT Solutions: When will spot rates get better?

Special to Land Line | Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spot truckload rates declined across all equipment types during the week ending April 16, according to DAT Solutions, which operates the OOIDA MembersEdge load board. The number of posted trucks increased 4.5 percent, and the number of available loads fell 6.4 percent compared to the previous week.

However, demand was up in major markets, a signal that spot rates may rebound.

Good news
The number of available loads last week fell 6 percent for vans, 1 percent for reefers, and 9 percent for flatbeds and average spot rates dipped accordingly. The national average van rate fell 3 cents to $1.50 per mile, marking the third straight week of declines.

The reefer rate was down 2 cents at $1.78 per mile despite the fact that volumes were up in almost every major reefer market. And the average flatbed rate fell 1 cent to $1.91 per mile.

Where’s the good news? Use your load board to drill down to specific lanes.

For instance, while reefer demand has been generally softer than expected, the average rate for reefer loads was $2.02 a mile from Nogales, Ariz., to Dallas, up 13 cents compared to the week before last. Nogales-Tucson has been the top market for load posts on DAT MembersEdge in the past two weeks, with 10.6 available loads per truck.

Two of the biggest van rate increases were on low-paying lanes: Chicago to Los Angeles was up 15 cents to $1.25 a mile, and Denver to Oklahoma City gained 11 cents to $1.10 a mile. Demand is finally starting to drive rates up, albeit slowly.

Better news
National average flatbed rates are up 5 cents a mile so far in April, with increases in the 9-cent range in high-volume lanes.

Regionally, demand is strong and rates are holding up well in the Southeast, including lanes originating in Atlanta, Roanoke, and Savannah. Leading lanes include Tampa outbound, up 8 cents to an average of $1.91 a mile, and Memphis, up 14 cents to $2.46.

Memphis-to-Dallas added 8 cents and is up 22 cents for the month to $2.29 a mile. An added bonus: You end up in Texas, where you can usually find a load out of Dallas, Fort Worth, or Houston.

What to watch
The gap between contract rates and spot rates is expanding. In the van market, the average spread between contract and spot rates is 36 cents during the month of April.

One factor is the declining price of fuel. Spot rates are “all in” rates; they theoretically combine a line-haul portion and a fuel surcharge. This rolled-up rate has fallen much more sharply than the fuel surcharge has dropped for carriers hauling freight under contract.

Another reason is that shippers have less exception freight to move. In other words, they’re just not producing more than they planned for.

Look for the latest load availability and rate information at 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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