DAT Solutions: Retail shipments keep van capacity tight

Special to Land Line | 11/2/2017

Volumes for the top van markets on DAT MembersEdge rebounded 5 percent for the week ending Oct. 28, as shippers moved freight out the door before month’s end. Van rates remain elevated despite a drop of a few cents per week since an early October peak, and the lead-up to Thanksgiving should keep truckload demand high on the spot market.

Load counts continued to climb, and load-to-truck ratios remain about 5.5 in most of the country. In Los Angeles, the van load-to-truck ratio hit 17.6 loads per truck on Oct. 27. That’s a huge number for L.A.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Rates slip but stay high: National average spot van and reefer rates declined for the third week in a row, while the flatbed rate held steady after nearly two months of steady gains. Rates are elevated for this time of year for all three equipment types and may pick up before Thanksgiving, as retail sales are projected to grow by 6 percent this holiday season:

  • Van – $2.03/mile, down 1 cent
  • Flatbed – $2.34/mile, unchanged
  • Reefer – $2.36/mile, down 1 cent

Demand with a plan: The need for truck capacity is high for all three trailer types but volumes for the top van markets were up 5 percent last week as shippers moved freight out the door before month’s end. Nationally, van load posts increased 1 percent and truck posts declined 3 percent, which caused the van load-to-truck ratio to increase from 5.4 to 5.9 loads per truck. The load-to-truck ratio has declined since hitting a peak of 7 loads per truck during the final week in September.

DAT Hot States

Hot in L.A.: On the L.A.-Chicago lane, competition from rail traffic typically keeps van rates low, but extra freight in Los Angeles has created urgency and pushed more intermodal loads onto the spot truckload market. The spot van rate from Los Angeles rose 13 cents to $1.69/mile last week.

Price is right: Rates are on the rise for lanes serving the Northeast, another sign of strong retail demand:

  • Chicago-Buffalo gained 18 cents at $3.19/mile
  • Memphis-Columbus paid 14 cents better at $2.19/mile, with shippers adjusting warehouse inventories

Downers: The three biggest lane-rate declines for van freight last week were out of the Northeast. Strong inbound volumes meant there were more trucks available in the region:

  • Allentown, Pa.-Richmond, Va. dropped 16 cents to $2.51/mile
  • Buffalo-Chicago fell 14 cents to $1.73/mile
  • Philadelphia-Atlanta lost 12 cents at $1.88/mile

Reefers cooling: The reefer load-to-truck ratio had been falling after hitting the highest average ratio in years in late September, but last week the ratio turned upward again. Load posts held steady and truck posts declined 2 percent, causing the load-to-truck ratio to increase 1 percent, to 9.7 loads per truck.

Flatbeds easing: After hitting the highest load-to-truck ratio in years during the last week of September – 50.2 loads per truck – the flatbed ratio has eased off during the past four weeks. Load posts declined 6 percent and truck posts declined 2 percent, which caused the load-to-truck ratio to slip to 35.9 loads per truck, still a high ratio.

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/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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