DAT Solutions: Spot rates move higher, reefer volumes surge

July 11, 2019

Special to Land Line

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National average van and reefer rates on DAT MembersEdge inched higher last week, which included the Fourth of July holiday. Freight volume fell 45% compared to the previous week as many businesses reduced their schedules but loads moved at a premium due to the compressed window.

National average spot rates through July 6

  • Van: $1.91 per mile, 2 cents higher than the June average and 12 cents higher than May.
  • Reefer: $2.28 per mile, 4 cents higher than June.
  • Flatbed: $2.30 per mile, unchanged from June.

Diesel increased 1 cent to $3.05 per gallon as a national average.

Van trends

Independence Day helped send van volumes down sharply compared to the previous week, given the holiday, which many shippers turned into a four-day weekend. The van load-to-truck ratio fell from 3.2 to 2.0, more than a point below the June average of 3.1 loads posted for every truck.

Still, spot rates were higher on 52 of the top 100 van lanes.

Where rates are rising

In the Midwest, Chicago (up 4 cents to an average outbound rate of $2.20 per mile) and Columbus, Ohio (up 5 cents to $2.22 per mile) led the way in terms of major-market rate gains.

Memphis to Indianapolis jumped 22 cents to $2.56 per mile and the return trip added 4 cents to $1.86 per mile. Dallas to Houston increased 14 cents to $2.51 per mile while the return trip fell just 3 cents to $2.25 per mile. Overall, the average outbound rate from Houston was $1.76 per mile, down 3 cents compared to the previous week and off 4% over the past month, likely because of a slowing oil market in Texas.

Reefer trends

Spot reefer volumes hit their high-water mark for 2019, although the holiday helped send the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio from 5.5 to 3.5. Of the top 72 reefer lanes on DAT MembersEdge, rates were higher on 46 and declined on 23. Three lanes were neutral.

Where rates are rising

Spot rates responded to higher volumes in California’s four major reefer markets: Fresno, up 3 cents to $2.52 per mile; Los Angeles, up 9 cents to $3.06 per mile; Ontario, up 5 cents to $2.80 per mile; and Sacramento, up 6 cents to $2.83 per mile.

There was more good news in the Midwest. The average outbound rate from Grand Rapids, Mich., increased 17 cents to $2.73 per mile last week, with Grand Rapids to Cleveland surging 44 cents to $3.87 per mile and Grand Rapids-Atlanta gaining 32 cents to $2.23 per mile. It’s too early for those famous Michigan apples, but asparagus, blackberries, peaches, potatoes and strawberries appear ready to move.

Round-trip best bets: Atlanta-Columbus

Instead of looking at a tri-haul route, this week we’re examining van, reefer, and flatbed rates on one lane: Atlanta to Columbus, Ohio, which is 567 miles one way.

  • Reefer: With produce season under way, reefers are in high demand. Last week, the average spot reefer rate from the Atlanta market to the Columbus market was $2.42 per mile while the trip back paid $2.37 per mile—a difference of just 5 cents and a $2.40 per mile average for the round trip.
  • Van: Rates were lower if you’re pulling a van but there’s still money to be made. Atlanta to Columbus averaged $1.90 per mile while the return trip paid $2.02 per mile. That’s a $1.96 per mile average.
  • Flatbed: The average flatbed rate from Atlanta to Columbus was $2.22 per mile, and Columbus to Atlanta was $2.25 per mile, for an average of $2.23 per mile.

Remember, these rates represent averages from last week and may be different now. Talk to the load providers and negotiate the best deal you can get on every haul. They may not agree to your terms, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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.

Synchrony Financial