DAT Solutions: After a hot week for spot freight, demand cools

December 12, 2018

Special to Land Line


Maybe everyone did their shopping early, according to load posts and spot rates.

The number of load posts on MembersEdge declined 10 percent while truck posts increased 12 percent last week, bringing the overall load-to-truck ratio to about the same place it was two weeks ago.

The national average spot van rate increased 6 cents to $2.14 per mile although demand for trucks was weaker on high-traffic lanes for retail and e-commerce freight. The national average spot refrigerated rate declined 2 cents to $2.46 per mile and the spot flatbed rate gained 3 cents to $2.43 per mile, the first increase in the national average rate in five months.

The price of diesel declined 5 cents to $3.16 per gallon as a national average, its lowest point since April. Lower fuel prices are generally welcome news for truckers but they do exert downward pressure on spot rates.

Van trends

The number of van load posts was down 13 percent last week while truck posts surged 53 percent. Loose capacity pushed the load-to-truck ratio down to 5.5 loads per truck compared to 7.2 the previous week.

Slow mo

Despite a rise in the national average spot van rate, momentum in the market stalled by midweek as freight volumes fell 5.3 percent on the Top 100 lanes. Rates on those lanes slumped as well, with 62 lanes down an average of 1.9 percent, or roughly 4 cents per mile, compared to the previous week.

Winter slumber

There were large drops in van freight activity in Atlanta, where the number of posted loads fell by 11.3 percent, and Los Angeles, down 8.9 percent, among other van freight hubs. Absent a rebound this week, the anticipated holiday peak for van freight appears to be muted.

Houston rockets

Houston bucked the trend as both van load posts and rates increased. Rates also got a boost coming out of Denver. The largest increases last week were on “weaker” lanes:

  • Denver to Los Angeles, up 13 cents to $1.28 per mile.
  • Lake City to Stockton, up 13 cents to $1.58 per mile.
  • Philadelphia to Buffalo, which added 16 cents to $2.70 per mile.

Reefer trends

Reefer load posts on MembersEdge slipped 16 percent compared to the previous week. Truck posts rose 9 percent, which pushed the national ratio down 23 percent to 6.3 reefer loads per truck.

Chill in the air

Prices were down on 49 of the top 72 reefer lanes. The average outbound rate took a step down in several key reefer markets, including Grand Rapids, Mich. ($3.34 per mile, down 10 cents), Chicago ($2.93 per mile, down 14 cents), Philadelphia ($3.19 per mile, down 7 cents), and Los Angeles ($3.13 per mile, down 13 cents).

Forks up

With produce volumes rising in Texas and Idaho potatoes still moving, prices out of these markets made for some appetizing reefer lanes last week.

  • Twin Falls to Los Angeles: $2.76 per mile, up 17 cents.
  • McAllen to Chicago: $2.02 per mile, up 5 cents.

Flatbed trends

Flatbed demand slipped last week after a surge in the previous week. The number of flatbed load posts fell 4 percent while truck posts increased 16 percent, and the national flatbed load-to-truck ratio dropped from 23.9 to 19.8 loads per truck.

Yuletide high

Christmas trees are making their final push to market. Last Friday, the load-to-truck ratio in the Medford, Ore., topped 500 to 1. Ratios were also sky-high in Rapid City, S.D.; Grand Junction, Colo.; and Missoula, Mont.

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.