DAT Solutions: Spot reefer rates heat up

November 27, 2019

Special to Land Line


The number of load posts on DAT MembersEdge jumped last week as shippers moved goods ahead of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Spot refrigerated freight volumes hit a weekly record, and rates responded with solid increases in most major markets.

National average spot rates for November

  • Van: $1.82 per mile, 2 cents higher than the October average.
  • Flatbed: $2.11 per mile, 6 cents lower compared to October.
  • Reefer: $2.16 per mile, 5 cents higher than October.

Van trends

Spot van volumes rose 2.3% last week compared to the prior week, a positive sign for carriers given the overall state of the van freight market.

Pricing moved higher on 50 of DAT’s top 100 van lanes, 37 lanes declined, and 13 were neutral—that’s a lot, and indicative of the sluggish market for spot van freight. The national average van load-to-truck ratio was 2.5, a slight increase compared to the previous week but not enough to move rates.

Lanes with gains

Average outbound rates increased in a few major van markets, including Atlanta ($2.02 per mile, up 3 cents), Memphis, Tenn., ($2.09 per mile, up 4 cents), and Columbus, Ohio ($2.14 per mile, up 2 cents). Key lanes:

  • Seattle to Spokane surged 25 cents to $3.29 per mile.
  • Chicago to Atlanta added 16 cents to $2.29 a mile.
  • Denver to Houston increased 16 cents to $1.41 per mile.

Reefer trends

Spot reefer rates increased on 52 of DAT’s top 72 reefer lanes as truckers moved record volumes last week.

Top-performing markets include those shipping produce and other goods for the holiday, including Miami (up 8 cents to $1.52 per mile); Twin Falls, Idaho (up 20 cents to $2.44 per mile); Los Angeles (up 15 cents to $2.85 per mile); and Ontario, California (up 13 cents to $2.64 per mile).

Lanes with gains

  • Twin Falls to Phoenix spiked 36 cents to $2.91 per mile.
  • Los Angeles to Denver shot up 32 cents to $3 per mile.
  • Miami to Baltimore added 29 cents to $2.35 per mile.
Spot reefer rates map
Spot reefer volumes set records last week, with California markets leading the way for load availability.

Round trips of the week

Last week produced several van lanes with strong rates in both directions. Instead of a tri-haul, here are three round trips worth noting:

  • Charlotte, N.C.-Atlanta: A big corridor for retail freight, Charlotte to Atlanta averaged $2.31 per mile last week, up 7 cents compared to the previous week, while Atlanta to Charlotte paid $2.21 per mile. That’s an average of $2.26 per mile for the 490-mile round trip.  Rates have improved since Monday on the Atlanta-Charlotte-Atlanta round trip, however – $2.40 (up 19 cents) from Atlanta to Charlotte, and  $2.32 per mile (up 1 cent) from Charlotte to Atlanta. That means the head-haul direction flipped, as well. Truckers who are working on Friday should be able to do very well on that lane.
  • Seattle-Spokane, Wash.: Seattle to Spokane paid $3.29 per mile, up 25 cents. The return trip paid $2.97 per mile, up 15 cents, for an average of $2.63 per mile for the 558-mile round trip. Given how disruptive the weather can be in other parts of the country at this time of year, that’s a straight shot on a generally reliable I-90. Interestingly, that seven-day rolling average rate dropped to $3.11 as of Wednesday morning, and the return trip from Spokane to Seattle fell from $2.97 to $2.68. Still good, but not as fabulous as it was earlier in the week.
  • Chicago-Buffalo, N.Y.: Buffalo to Chicago paid just $1.67 per mile last week but Chicago to Buffalo paid $2.59 per mile. That averages out to $2.13 per mile for the 1,086-mile round trip. Not bad. As of Wednesday morning, Chicago to Buffalo lost 5 cents to $2.54 per mile, while Buffalo to Chicago rate rose 22 cents to $1.89 – that could be related to the re-start of train service in Canada, bringing more freight to the U.S. border at Buffalo.


These rates represent averages from last week and this week could be different. Talk to the load providers and 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 us @LoadBoards and have your questions answered by DAT industry analyst Mark Montague.