DAT Solutions: Spot market shifts in shippers’ favor

January 30, 2020

Special to Land Line

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Spot load-to-truck ratios for all three equipment types on DAT MembersEdge fell last week, and truckload rates for vans and reefers drifted lower as shippers had little trouble finding trucks to haul their freight. We’re seeing signs that this lull will be shorter-lived than expected, but there’s no doubt that we’re in it now.

National average spot rates, January (through Jan. 26)

  • Van: $1.90 per mile, down 4 cents from the December average.
  • Reefer: $2.27 per mile, down 3 cents from December but 9 cents higher than November.
  • Flatbed: $2.18 per mile, unchanged from December.

Van trends

The national average spot market van load-to-truck ratio slipped from 2.1 to 1.6 on neutral van volumes compared to the previous week. For the second straight week, the average van rate was lower on nearly all of DAT’s top 100 van lanes and rates were higher only on lanes that tend not to pay well in the first place or have low volume.

For instance, Denver to Houston increased 10 cents a mile but averaged $1.34 without many loads to choose from. Houston to Denver lost 9 cents to $1.92.

Seattle to Spokane, Wash., added 3 cents to average $3.32 a mile while Spokane to Seattle held at $2.87. Not bad but with few loads available on that westbound leg, you might have to factor deadhead miles in the mix.

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Reefer trends

This is a quiet period for reefer freight, which is closely tied to domestic fresh produce harvests. The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio was 3.8, down from 4.9 the previous week.

There’s import traffic from Mexico and at some seaports, but many of those loads are scheduled and moving under contract. Plus, there are lots of trucks available in those markets.

As a result, the average reefer spot market rate fell on 71 of the top 72 reefer lanes by volume. The sole riser was Grand Rapids, Mich, to Madison, Wis.

Miami to Atlanta dropped 9 cents to $1.50 and Atlanta to Miami lost 5 cents to $2.76. At least these lanes are shorter hauls, the weather is decent, and you can find loads. Bottom line: If you get stuck in Florida with a reefer, book a load to Atlanta and find another load there to take you home.

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Tri-haul of the week

The average spot market van rate from Memphis, Tenn., to Charlotte, N.C., fell 14 cents to $1.95 a mile last week while the return trip lost 9 cents to $1.45.

The good news is you should be able to find loads in both markets, and the Professional version of DAT MembersEdge will automatically suggest a third leg between the markets to boost your revenue.

Instead of finding freight from Charlotte back to Memphis, look for a load from Charlotte to Macon, Ga., which currently averages $1.95 per mile. The leg from Macon to Memphis pays $2.11.

The straight roundtrip between Memphis and Charlotte averages $1.76 per loaded mile, for a total of $2,166. The three-legged route through Macon averages $2.05 a mile and adds another 136 paid miles to your trip. The tri-haul would earn you $640 more than the round trip. If it works with your schedule and hours of service, this could be a good choice.

DAT tri-haul spot rate chart

These spot market 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.

Here’s last week’s report from DAT Solutions: