DAT Solutions: Christmas capacity crunch brings higher rates

January 3, 2019

Special to Land Line


As you might expect, there was less freight to move last week as businesses shut down for Christmas. The number of load posts on DAT MembersEdge fell 21 percent, not an unusual number when you compare a short workweek to a full one.

But when loads did need to go, capacity was hard to find. Truck posts were down 47 percent compared to the previous week, and the imbalance produced big gains in national average load-to-truck ratios.

  • Van ratio: 8.9, up 74 percent.
  • Reefer ratio: 10.5, up 49 percent.
  • Flatbed ratio: 26.1, up 34 percent.

Spot rates, meanwhile, ticked up across all three equipment types. This is despite a 3-cent decline in the price of diesel to $3.05 a gallon. Spot rates include a calculated surcharge and can be affected by changes in the price of fuel.

Van trends

Seventy of the top 100 van lanes paid higher rates last week and the national average spot van rate rose 1 cent to $2.08 per mile. Declines in van load and truck posts matched the national trends.

Closing strong
Several outbound van markets picked up strength during the last full business week before the close of 2018. Among them:

  • Chicago – $2.55 per mile, up 7 cents.
  • Columbus, Ohio – $2.54 per mile, up 10 cents.
  • Philadelphia – $2.09 per mile, up 8 cents.
  • Charlotte, N.C. – $2.36 per mile, up 9 cents.
  • Atlanta –  $2.25 per mile, up 7 cents

Mo miles, mo money
Long-haul freight paid a premium last week but truckers were making money on regional hauls, too.

  • Columbus-Buffalo: $3.67 per mile, up 20 cents.
  • Allentown-Boston: $3.98 per mile, up 9 cents.
  • Dallas-Houston: $2.64 per mile, up 17 cents.
  • Atlanta-Charlotte: $2.74 per mile, up 23 cents.

Flatbed trends

The number of flatbed load posts dropped 44 percent and truck posts were down 58 percent. The national average spot flatbed rate increased 1 cent to $2.43 per mile, and that’s with lower diesel prices chipping away at fuel surcharges.

Prices flare
Has oilpatch activity in Texas bottomed out? The average outbound rate from Houston increased 16 cents to $2.69 per mile. Houston to New Orleans jumped 60 cents to $3.08 per mile. These are encouraging signs that demand for flatbed trucks is picking up.

Reefer trends

Reefer capacity was hard to secure but the number of load posts was only down 9 percent, not much when you consider that Christmas landed on a Tuesday. By comparison, truck posts dropped off 40 percent. With capacity tight, 64 of the 72 top reefer lanes paid better compared to the previous week, and the national average spot reefer rate rose 2 cents to $2.44 per mile.

Southern surge
Continuing a trend from recent weeks, reefer rates surged from the Mexican border.

  • McAllen, Texas-Atlanta soared 86 cents to $3.36 per mile.
  • Nogales, Ariz.-Chicago added 49 cents at $2.57 per mile

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 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.