DAT Solutions: Spot Rates Surge to Start New Year

January 11, 2018

Special to Land Line


If your New Year’s resolution involves higher truckload rates in 2018, you’re off to a good start.

National average spot rates on DAT MembersEdge saw double-digit increases during the week ending Jan. 6, a welcome surge for truckers. Let’s look at the trends:

More freight, fewer trucks. The number of available loads increased 27 percent for the week —in line with expectations when a full workweek follows a holiday-shortened one. But the number of trucks posted to DAT load boards was up just 7.4 percent.

Imbalanced loads and trucks. The freight-truck imbalance pushed load-to-truck ratios up for all three equipment types:

  • Van load-to-truck ratio – 14.7, the highest van ratio ever recorded in DAT Trendlines
  • Flatbed ratio – 63.5, up 22 percent
  • Reefer ratio – 25.2, up 6 percent

Van loads and rates rise. Van load posts jumped 26 percent, but truck posts were up only 6 percent. The national average van rate was $2.30/mile, up 19 cents compared to the previous week.

Markets on the rise. The top van market for outbound volume was Houston ($2.02/mile, up 11 cents), and most of the 100 highest-volume van lanes saw rates rise. A sampling:

  • Chicago, $3.02/mile, up 10 cents
  • Columbus, Ohio, $2.87/mile, up 9 cents
  • Buffalo, N.Y., $2.87/mile, up 5 cents
  • Philadelphia, $2.35/mile, up 5 cents
  • Memphis, $2.58/mile, up 10 cents

A few big drops. Van markets where rates were down included Los Angeles ($2.86/mile, down 11 cents) and Dallas($2.07/mile, down 7 cents). There were big drops on other van lanes that have been otherwise busy:

  • Los Angeles-Dallas was down 21 cents to an average of $2.27/mile
  • Dallas-Denver dropped 22 cents to $2.58/mile
  • Seattle-Salt Lake City lost 33 cents to $2.44/mile

Reefer capacity tightens. Reefer load posts on MembersEdge increased 14 percent while reefer truck posts increased only 7 percent.

Reefer rate hits a record. The national average spot refrigerated rate increased 25 cents to $2.71/mile, a record high for reefers. Nogales, Ariz., was the only produce-shipping market to post any big rate increases last week. MiamiSacramento, and Lakeland, Fla., all experienced sharp drops last week. Demand for refrigerated trailers peaked at year-end but cold weather in parts of the country has kept prices at record levels where reefer trailers are used to keep freight from freezing.

Chart showing spot rates for reefer loads

Flatbeds surging. Flatbed load posts surged 46 percent, and truck posts increased 20 percent last week. The national average flatbed rate climbed 10 cents to $2.43/mile to start the year.

Fuel up a dime. The national average price of on-highway diesel fuel increased another 10 cents to $3/gallon. Spot truckload freight rates include a fuel surcharge portion so any change in fuel is typically reflected in the spot rate.

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.