DAT Solutions: A simmering summer for spot rates

Special to Land Line | 6/22/2017

The spot truckload market picked up steam in May and June, with load-to-truck ratios and rates hitting highs we haven’t seen in a long time. A few bumps last week won’t slow the roll.

The number of load posts on MembersEdge dipped 1 percent, and truck posts were up 8 percent as capacity returned to the spot market following the Roadcheck inspection blitz. Load-to-truck ratios may have taken a step back but they’re still in good shape for truckers:

  • Van ratio: 5.2 loads per truck, down 9 percent
  • Reefer ratio: 9.1, down 10 percent
  • Flatbed ratio: 44.5, down 10 percent

Rates, meanwhile, remain at two-year highs. To the trendlines:

Van trends: The number of posted van loads declined 1 percent while truck posts increased 9 percent. Again, we’ll chalk that up to Roadcheck. The national average van rate held steady at $1.79/mile last week, but it has added 11 cents since May 27.

L.A. gains: Van freight posts in Los Angeles are 10 percent higher over the last month. The average outbound van rate there added 2 cents per mile week over week, hitting $2.30/mile.

Houston happening: Rates from Houston rebounded in a big way, up 6 cents to an average of $1.87/mile. Two outbound lanes to watch:

  • Houston-New Orleans rose 22 cents to $2.65/mile
  • Houston-Oklahoma City hit a new high at $2.30/mile. This has been a wildly up-and-down lane in recent weeks.

Cooling off: Average outbound van rates fell on 40 of the top 100 van lanes. In a lot of cases the declines were small, but they included some key markets:

  • Dallas: $1.76/mile, down 1 cent
  • Denver: $1.10/mile, down 3 cents
  • Columbus: $1.98/mile, down 4 cents
  • Chicago: $2.03/mile, down 2 cents

Reefer trends: The number of reefer load posts dipped 2 percent while truck posts jumped 8 percent. The national average rate was unchanged at $2.11/mile, the highest average in nearly two years. On the top 72 reefer lanes, surprisingly only 27 had higher rates.

Rocky Mountain high: At $1.30/mile, Denver has the lowest average outbound reefer rate in the country. But inbound rates on several lanes were up: Los Angeles-Denver rose 37 cents to $3.23/mile, Dallas-Denver added 24 cents to $2.67/mile, and Chicago-Denver paid 19 cents better at $2.20/mile.

Florida falling: The lane from Lakeland-Charlotte bounced back 13 cents to $2.00/mile. That wasn’t a typical trend out of Florida, though. Drought and wildfires hampered the state’s prime shipping season this year and prices on lanes out of Miami are down.

Flatbed demand dips: After hitting its highest level in years the previous week, the flatbed load-to-truck ratio slipped 10 percent as the number of flatbed load posts held steady and truck posts increased 11 percent. At $2.15/mile, the national average flatbed rate was unchanged compared to the previous week.

Diesel digest: On-highway diesel prices continue to slide. The national average fell another 3 cents to $2.49/gallon last week.

Tri-haul of the week:Houston-Oklahoma City has been a volatile lane as far as rates go, but when prices are down, a tri-haul route can pad the wallet.

The backhaul market rate from OKC-Houston was $1.78/mile last week, but you can head to Shreveport instead. It paid a little better at $1.78/mile, but Shreveport-Houston averaged $2.46/mile last week. Based on average rates from the past week, you can you add nearly $500 if you haul an extra 180 miles on your roundtrip. The extra pick and drop might not be worth the effort when the Houston-OKC leg is paying well, but the tri-haul should work most weeks when that rate is down. 

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 or tune in to Land Line Now. You can get all of the latest rate information at DAT.com/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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