DAT Solutions: Spot rates, volumes hold on to higher ground

March 21, 2018

Special to Land Line


Load volume on DAT MembersEdge slipped 1.2 percent and truck posts increased 2 percent for the week ending March 17, so it’s no surprise that load-to-truck ratios and rates were relatively even. While the spot market may seem to have plateaued, it’s on much higher ground compared to a year ago.

Load-to-truck ratios firm
National average load-to-truck ratios were flat but the ratio for all freight was 14.1, nearly double what it was at this time last year.

  • Van LT ratio – 6.8, unchanged
  • Flatbed LT ratio – 86.7, down slightly from 88.5
  • Reefer LT ratio – 10.1, down from 10.5

Rates, too
Spot rates for all three equipment types were unchanged but are well ahead of last year’s pace.

  • Van – $2.14 per mile, unchanged for the fourth week in a row but 51 cents higher year over year
  • Flatbed – $2.50 per mile, unchanged but 48 cents higher year over year
  • Reefer – $2.40 per mile, unchanged for the third week in a row but 54 cents higher compared to last year

And fuel
Fuel, of course, affects spot rates. The national average price of on-highway diesel was $2.97 per gallon, unchanged compared to the previous week but about 41cents higher than this time last year.

Van trends
The number of van loads increased 3.1 percent last week as we approach the close of Q1, the Easter holiday, and the start of the penalty phase of the ELD mandate. Overall, rated trended up on 54 of the Top 100 lanes while 41 were down and five were unchanged. Truck posts rose 2.2 percent.

Hot van markets
Houston volume jumped 4.6 percent last week. Industrial freight has helped make Houston the leading van market in terms of growth in 2018 so far.

  • Houston-Oklahoma City – a key lane for energy-related freight – gained 22 cents to $2.35 per mile
  • Volume out of Memphis, a major retail hub, increased slightly last week and is up 4 percent over the last four weeks.
  • Allentown, Pa., gained 2.6 percent as final-mile retail freight rose ahead of Easter. Rates spiked on lanes into Northeastern markets. Allentown-Boston was up 28 cents to $4.01 per mile.

Reefer trends
Refrigerated freight volume rose 9 percent last week, led by increases in 13 of 17 major markets. They include Chicago and Grand Rapids, Mich., in the Midwest (eggs and dairy); Sacramento and Twin Falls, Idaho, in the West; New Jersey and Philadelphia in the Northeast (imports); and Dallas in the South Central.

Hot reefer markets
 load availability jumped 16 percent and rates on several outbound lanes were higher. For example:

  • Chicago-Philadelphia, up 36 cents to $3.53 per mile
  • Chicago-Kansas City, up 36 cents to $3.53 per mile

Green Bay rates rose despite lower volumes as the mix of freight shifts to shorter hauls of dairy, meat, and other nonproduce loads. Two examples:

  • Green Bay-Des Moines, up 52 cents to $3.09 per mile
  • Green Bay to Joliet, up 35 cents to $4.01 per mile

More good news
It’s fresh produce season. California volumes were up 7.6 percent last week – that state is no longer a headwind to reefer pricing. And Florida volumes will likely be up this week and next. Spring has sprung, and fruits and vegetables are on the move.

Tri-haul of the week: Allentown-Boston-Hartford

“And we’re living here in Allentown.”

The old Billy Joel song makes Allentown sound pretty bleak, but today opportunity abounds. Case in point: Allentown-Boston rates are in the $4-per-mile range (tolls are one reason). You won’t find that rate coming back, though. Boston-Allentown paid an average of $2.30 per mile last week, and that 600-mile roundtrip may have you laying over a day or deadheading.

Instead, look for a shorter haul to Springfield, Mass., or Hartford and get a second load to take you home. The route that takes you through Hartford is not really a tri-haul – it’s nearly a direct shot home. You can boost your rate per mile by another 14 cents to $3.25 per mile or $2,300 in revenue instead of $1,900. It’s hard to keep a good man down when you have an extra $400.

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/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.