DAT Solutions: January’s soft spot rates slide into February

February 5, 2020

Special to Land Line


Feb. 2 was Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring “is a certainty.” That’s good, because spot truckload freight volumes and rates this winter have been downright chilly. Rates on DAT MembersEdge were at their lows for the year on most lanes and trending down last week.

National average spot rates, January

  • Van: $1.88 per mile, down 6 cents from the December average.
  • Reefer: $2.25 per mile, down 3 cents from December, and falling as February starts.
  • Flatbed: $2.17 per mile, unchanged from December.

Rates continued to fall during the first few days of February.

Van trends

If you need proof that peak retail season is over, look at the van lane from Columbus, Ohio, to Buffalo, N.Y. The average spot rate was $2.96 per mile, down 42 cents from just three weeks ago. The average van rate was lower on 81 of DAT’s top 100 van lanes and the national average van load-to-truck ratio was 1.6, unchanged from the previous week.

Lanes to watch:

  • Stockton, Calif., to Denver: $1.98 per mile, down 22 cents compared to the previous week.
  • Buffalo to Charlotte, N.C.: $1.95, down 18 cents.
  • Denver to Houston: $1.23, down 9 cents
  • Seattle to Spokane, Wash.: $3.09, down 23 cents.

Reefer trends

The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio was 3.4, down from 3.8, as demand continues to fall. When reefer demand cools, it tends to drag van rates down since reefer carriers can look for van loads when reefer freight isn’t available. The biggest spot price movements were in the losing direction.

  • Tucson, Ariz., to Dallas: $2.19 per mile, down 19 cents.
  • Twin Falls, Idaho, to Baltimore: $2.50, down 21 cents.
  • Dallas to Columbus: $2.00 per mile, down 1 cent.
  • Los Angeles to Portland, Ore.: $2.69, down 15 cents.

Tri-haul of the week

Load-to-truck ratios are high in McAllen, Texas, a border market where fresh produce and other goods enter the U.S. from Mexico. There were more than 1,000 reefer load posts on DAT load boards in that area during the past week, and more than 500 van load posts.

Last week the average spot rate for reefers going from McAllen to Atlanta was $2.27 per mile—that’s 16 cents above the national average. The return trip from Atlanta paid only $1.51 per mile for a round-trip average of $1.89. At 2,274 loaded miles, you’d earn a total of $4,298.

The Professional version of DAT MembersEdge can give you suggestions to add a higher-paying third lane to your return trip. One suggested route would take you through Memphis, Tenn.

The current average rate from Atlanta to Memphis is $2.29 per mile, while Memphis to McAllen pays $2.76. The average for the 2,473-mile trip is $2.46 per mile, which would bump your revenue to $6,090—a $1,792 difference.

DAT Solutions tri-haul chart

If it works with your schedule and hours of service, this tri-haul could be a good option.

These rates represent averages from last week and this week could be different. Negotiate the best deal you can get on every haul, and look at the rates and load-to-truck ratios in MembersEdge to understand which way prices are trending.

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 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.