DAT Solutions: Flatbed market stays hot as rates climb

Special to Land Line | Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Rebuilding is in full swing in places affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, which is good news for flatbed haulers.

While spot flatbed load posts on MembersEdge fell 7 percent and truck posts increased 6 percent during the week ending Oct. 14, the national average spot flatbed rate added 2 cents to $2.33/mile. That's the highest average flatbed rate in more than two years.

Unseasonably strong spot market: The number of posted loads on MembersEdge fell 10 percent while the number of trucks posted increased 7 percent last week, and the combination of fewer loads and more available capacity pushed load-to-truck ratios lower compared to the previous week:

  • Van: 5.4 available loads per truck, down 17 percent but still solid for this time of year
  • Flatbed: 40.9 loads per truck, down 12 percent
  • Refrigerated: 10.1 loads per truck, down 19

Van, reefer rates slip: While the flatbed rate climbed again, the van rate fell 2 cents to $2.07/mile and reefers dropped a penny to $2.36/mile.

Spot van load posts declined 11 percent and truck posts increased 7 percent. Van rates moderated last week but this may be short-lived with volumes surging in California and other Western states.

Who’s No. 1? The No. 1 market for van freight was Los Angeles, where the average rate jumped 4 cents to $2.41/mile. Rates were softer elsewhere:

  • Columbus, Ohio: $2.62/mile, down 14 cents
  • Dallas: $1.78/mile, down 1 cent
  • Houston: $1.75/mile, unchanged
  • Atlanta: $2.23/mile, down 6 cents
  • Buffalo: $2.56/mile, down 13 cents

Squeezed? The Columbus-Buffalo van lane dropped 33 cents last week to $3.09/mile. It could be a case of Columbus being out of inventory, given the extra activity that happened out of there following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which meant freight going into Buffalo had to be sourced elsewhere.

Reefers cool: In the spot reefer market, the number of posted loads decreased 13 percent and truck posts increased 7 percent from the previous week. Florida reefer volumes recovered but outbound rates were so low they actually contributed to a drop in the national average reefer rate.

Gravy: Capacity is still tight in potato-shipping regions like southern Idaho, eastern North Dakota, and southeastern Washington. Reefer rates slipped on some California lanes, despite good outbound volumes, likely because of inbound volumes. Wildfires also could have been a factor.

Tri-haul of the week
Typically the land of cheap freight, Denver van rates actually improved last week. You can take advantage of that and put together a tri-haul:

Los Angeles-Denver paid an average van rate of $2.97/mile but the return trip only paid $1.11. You can up your revenue by more than $900 if you can add a leg to Flagstaff on the way back. Denver-Flagstaff paid an average of $1.55/mile last week, while Flagstaff-L.A. was $1.84/mile. The extra leg adds about 215 miles, not counting deadhead. If you can fit it in with your hours, your average rate would jump 21 cents from $2.04 to $2.25/mile.

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information:

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.

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