DAT SOLUTIONS: Spot van rate hits low for the year as freight volumes fall

October 26, 2018

Special to Land Line


The number of loads on DAT MembersEdge fell 2 percent last week while the number of trucks gained 1 percent, dragging down national average rates for all three equipment types.

The spot van rate, in fact, hit its lowest point so far this year. The combination of more trucks and fewer loads kept load-to-truck ratios from rising compared to the previous week:

  • Vans: 4.7 loads per truck, unchanged
  • Flatbeds: 17, down 7 percent
  • Reefers: 6, down 4 percent

With the holidays—and presumably higher van and reefer volumes—on the way, watch this space to see how freight availability affects rates for the rest of the quarter.

Let’s look at the trendlines:

2 cents worth: National average spot rates declined across 2 cents in all three equipment categories. Van freight fell to $2.11/mile, flatbeds were $2.49/mile, and reefers slipped to $2.44/mile.

Fuel falls: The national average diesel price fell 1 cent last week to $3.38 per gallon, the first decline since Aug. 20.

Van freight skids: The number of load and truck posts were virtually unchanged compared to the previous week but outbound rates were generally down. On the top 100 van lanes, 64 lanes were lower on average, 29 were higher, and seven were unchanged.

L.A. traffic: A notable exception was Los Angeles, with nearly 6,000 van load posts on Friday alone. Ships delayed by Typhoon Mangkhut last month are arriving at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which receive almost 50 percent of Asian imports to the U.S. The extra volume is coming onto the spot market.

Chilly reefers: Reefer load posts on MembersEdge were down 3 percent last week while truck posts increased 1 percent. On the top 72 lanes, 48 experienced lower prices, 20 were higher, and four were neutral.

Softer produce lanes: Several lanes are affected by harvests. Twin Falls to Los Angeles was up 10 cents to $2.26/mile as we near the end of the potato harvest. With produce season essentially over in the Upper Midwest, competition for reefer loads is driving rates lower. The biggest decline was from Green Bay to Minneapolis, which tumbled 40 cents to $2.43/mile.

Flats find balance: Flatbed load posts were down 3 percent from the previous week while truck posts on DAT load boards increased 4 percent. Prices on major flatbed lanes more balanced than they were for vans and reefers: among the top 78 flatbed lanes, 42 lanes moved lower, 35 were higher, and one was neutral.

Roanoke shows gains: Roanoke, Va., is one market that’s picked up recently. It may be that steel foundries and steel and plastic fabrication plants in Roanoke are ramping up to serve manufacturers, including the auto industry. Many U.S.-made steel products are enjoying greater popularity lately because tariffs have made imported steel more expensive. Plastics are a petroleum by-product, and the U.S. is exporting more plastic resins along with oil and gas. Some of these loads move on flatbeds.

  • Roanoke to Harrisburg is up 23 cents per mile over the past month and last week averaged $3.43/mile.
  • Roanoke to Baltimore is up 14 cents over the past month. The rate last week was $3.49/mile.

Heading south: Several intra-state flatbed lanes in Texas have been slowing in the past few weeks.

  • Houston to Fort Worth is down 37 cents month over month, with last week’s average rate at $2.63/mile
  • Fort Worth to Houston is 5 cents lower month over month at $2.24/mile
  • Houston to El Paso is down 25 cents for the month. Last week’s rate was $2.56/mile

Dallas to San Antonio has dropped 36 cents this month, with last week’s rate at $2.46/mile

Get the latest rate trends at DAT.com/Trendlines or join the conversation on Twitter with @LoadBoards. Look for more information about load availability and rates at OOIDA’s MyMembersEdge.com, and listen in each Wednesday to Land Line Now for more talk about where to find profitable freight.