DAT Solutions: Spot rates start 2020 on a high

January 8, 2020

Special to Land Line


Van and reefer rates continued to rise in the first week of January, a show of momentum to start the new year. Freight volumes on DAT MembersEdge were lower compared to previous weeks in December, but that’s no surprise considering the midweek holiday. And what’s out there is paying well right now.

National average load-to-truck ratios

  • Van: 3.2 loads per truck, up from 2.4 in the previous week and near the December average of 3.3.
  • Reefer: 9.3 loads per truck, up from 7.8 at the end of December.
  • Flatbed: 14.8 loads per truck. The ratio was 10.6 the prior week but down from 17.0 the week before Christmas.

National average rates, Jan. 1-5

  • Van: $1.97 per mile, 2 cents higher than the December average.
  • Reefer: $2.35 per mile, 5 cents higher than December.
  • Flatbed: $2.17 per mile, unchanged from December.

Van trends

Big gains in big markets

At $1.97, the national average spot van rate is 3 cents higher than any monthly average since 2018.

Freight volumes rose on half of DAT’s top 100 van lanes by volume compared to the previous week. Van rates were up on high-volume lanes originating in six major freight hubs: Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Stockton, Calif.

  • Dallas to Houston rose 18 cents to $2.47 per mile. The return averaged $2.04, an increase of 3 cents compared to the previous week.
  • Chicago to Allentown, Pennsylvania, added 12 cents to $2.95.
  • Atlanta to Charlotte gained 7 cents to $2.67.
  • Atlanta to Miami rose 14 cents to $2.66.
  • Stockton to Ontario, Calif., added 13 cents to $1.76 per mile. Stockton to Los Angeles got a 7-cent boost to $1.85.

Some lanes that had big increases a couple of weeks ago reverted to slow-season rates, including lanes with destinations in Memphis, Columbus, and Chicago that are associated with retail freight. Columbus to Memphis rates dropped like a rock, from $2.07 to $1.79 per mile, a 28-cent loss.

Reefer trends

Up, up, and away

Load counts declined on half of DAT’s top 72 reefer lanes by volume, but only three of the top lanes had declining rates. Rates are rising everywhere, and truckers are having no problem finding reefer loads in import markets in Florida and Texas, as well as Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Check out these rates on south-to-north reefer lanes.

  • Lakeland, Fla., to Baltimore soared from $1.94 to $2.81 per mile. That’s an 87-cent increase.
  • Miami to Boston rocketed up 48 cents to $2.38.
  • Tucson, Ariz., to Los Angeles added 47 cents to $2.65 while the return rose 13 cents to $3.13. Spot reefer rates were even better further inland, in the Ontario market area.
  • McAllen, Texas, to Elizabeth added 42 cents to $2.93.

There’s snow and ice in the forecast this week, so you may need to deploy reefer trailers to keep temperature-sensitive cargo from freezing. That doesn’t always pay as well as loads of fresh produce but it will keep the trailer full and the wheels rolling in the Midwest and Northeast this winter.

Tri-haul of the week


Chicago to Allentown, Pa., gained 12 cents to $2.87 per mile last week but the return only paid $1.40. So let’s look for a tri-haul – that’s DAT’s name for a triangular route – to get you back. The professional version of DAT MembersEdge will give you suggestions for the third leg of the triangle so you can look for loads in the highest-paying routes.

One suggestion: head from Chicago to Allentown through Buffalo, N.Y. Currently, Allentown to Buffalo averages $2.73 per mile, while Buffalo to Chicago averages $1.76 per mile. That’s $2.14 per loaded mile on the round trip for a total of $3,113. The three-legged route averages $2.47 per mile and $3,968, so another $855 for 150 more loaded miles.

DAT tri-haul chart

Remember, 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 the rates 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 @LoadBoards and have your questions answered by DAT industry analyst Mark Montague.


Check out DAT Solutions’ report from just before Christmas here.

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