DAT SOLUTIONS: Rates ease down as truckers go back to work

July 18, 2018

Special to Land Line


Everybody headed back to work last week after taking time off for the Fourth of July. Load posts at DAT MembersEdge were up 18 percent during the week ending July 14, but truck posts rose more, at 21 percent.

Gains of 20 percent to 25 percent are more typical when you compare a full workweek to one shortened by a holiday. But it’s still a hot market for spot freight. Let’s look at the trends.

Cool summer
National average spot truckload rates dropped – a normal seasonal trend –but they’re higher than they’ve ever been.

  • Van: $2.38 per mile, down 7 cents compared to the previous week
  • Flatbed: $2.80 per mile, down 2 cents
  • Reefer: $2.70 per mile, down 7 cents

Chasing rates
The number of truck posts in the van market increased 21 percent compared to the previous week as truckers stepped up their activity. Van load posts increased just 14 percent, though, which had a stabilizing effect on prices and caused the weekly van load-to-truck ratio to dip to 7.3 loads per truck.

Hot van markets
In DAT’s top 100 van lanes for van freight last week, 81 lanes moved lower and only 14 lanes shifted higher, with five lanes neutral. There were big increases in volumes out of L.A., Chicago and Memphis, however – key van markets. Columbus, Ohio, was at the center of softer rates, especially on these lanes:

  • Columbus, Ohio, to Buffalo is a short trip that often tops $4 a mile, but it fell 53 cents to an average of $3.71 per mile.
  • Atlanta to Columbus was down 48 cents to $2.53 per mile – still high but more typical.
  • Memphis to Columbus heats up when retail traffic peaks, and last week it fell 46 cents to $2.92 per mile. Same with Columbus to Memphis, down 44 cents to $1.93 per mile.

Falling flats
The national load-to-truck ratio for flatbeds fell for the fifth week in a row, down to 48.4 loads per truck. That’s high but less than half the early-June level of 109 loads per truck. Last week there was a 25 percent increase in flatbed load posts and a 36 percent increase in truck posts, in line with expectations for the first full week after a holiday.

Reefer retreat
The number of reefer load posts increased 11 percent while truck posts gained 16 percent—not quite what you’d expect after a holiday week, but it is midsummer. The reefer load-to-truck ratio fell from 9.3 to 8.9 reefer loads per truck.

Bright spots
Reefer volumes have been strong out of southern Idaho, which pushed up rates out of Twin Falls. It appears to be a strong year for strawberries out of Salinas, California, and blueberries out of Elizabeth, N.J.

While the market for general-commodity refrigerated freight remains firm, there isn’t the same push from produce shippers right now. Several key regions are subpar in terms of available freight, including the Central Valley in California. Many of the stronger areas last week are not considered high-volume markets.

Quiet in Florida
Lakeland to Atlanta tumbled 75 cents to $1.49 per mile, and Lakeland to Charlotte plunged 67 cents to $1.92 per mile.

Tri-haul of the week: Memphis-Columbus-Chattanooga-Memphis

The seasonal decline in retail demand can take a bite out of van rates for shipments between Memphis and Columbus. You could turn the trip into a tri-haul and take advantage of better prices.

Last week, Memphis to Columbus paid $2.92 per mile while the return was $1.93 per mile.

Instead of heading straight back to Memphis, create a tri-haul with a load from Columbus to Chattanooga. That lane averaged $2.59 per mile last week, and you ought to be able to find freight there that’s heading toward Memphis. Chattanooga to Memphis averaged $3.03 per mile, making the total rate per loaded mile on the tri-haul $2.84 per mile – 41 cents more than a straight round trip. It’s about 200 extra miles, not counting the deadhead, but could add more than $1,000 in extra revenue if it works with your hours.

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.