DAT Solutions: Truckload rates drift lower, show signs of bottoming out

February 20, 2020

Special to Land Line


Spot truckload freight remains in a seasonal slump, with volumes and rates for all three equipment types on DAT MembersEdge drifting well below their January averages. The silver lining: Last week the declines were modest compared to the previous week, an indication that the market may be bottoming out.

National average spot rates, February (through Feb. 16)

  • Van: $1.80 per mile, down 7 cents from the January average.
  • Reefer: $2.11 per mile, down 13 cents.
  • Flatbed: $2.14 per mile, down 3 cents.

Van trends

Just two weeks ago the average van rate was lower on 81 of the top 100 van lanes by volume. Last week, only 39 lanes declined compared to the previous week and 32 stayed the same. That’s a good sign. And van load-to-truck ratios held steady last week, an indication that demand for trucks is firming up. The national average van ratio was neutral at 1.8 loads per truck compared to 1.7 the previous week.

On the other hand, many of the lanes with the largest van truckload rate increases were those where prices were well below the national average—a familiar story:

  • Denver to Oklahoma City: $1.33 per mile, up 16 cents.
  • Dallas to Los Angeles: $1.28, up 9 cents.
  • Lakeland, Fla., to Atlanta: $1.00 per mile, up 5 cents. That’s right. A buck a mile for van freight out of Florida.

Reefer trends

The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio was unchanged at 3.7, and rates were down on 46 of the top 72 reefer lanes. It’s still early for the Florida produce push, but truckload rates are moving higher on a handful of key lanes:

Miami to Atlanta: $1.76 per mile, up 27 cents.

Miami to Elizabeth, New Jersey: $1.71, up 12 cents.

Lakeland to Charlotte: $1.58, up 10 cents.

Imports and exports are also providing a lift, with elevated reefer load-to-truck ratios in the port cities of Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C.


Tri-haul of the week

Last week the average spot rate for vans going from Chicago to Charlotte, N.C., was $2.01 a mile. The return trip paid just $1.54 per mile for a round-trip average of $1.78. At 1,540 loaded miles, that’s a total of $2,734.

The professional version of DAT MembersEdge can suggest higher-paying third lanes for your return trip.

One of those routes would take you through Charleston, W. Va., which you’d pass right through if you’re traveling on I-64. The current average rate from Charlotte to the Charleston market is $2.93 per mile, which sure beats $1.54. Charleston to Chicago averages $1.75 per mile.

Your total revenue for the tri-haul would be $3,173, or $439 more for the same number of miles depending the location of your drop-off and pick-up in Charleston. If it works with your schedule and hours of service, this tri-haul could be a good option.

DAT tri-haul of the week chart

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 prices are trending.

You can get all the latest rate information at dat.com/trendlines and post your comments on the DAT Freight Talk blog or on the DAT Facebook page. Also, you can join the conversation on Twitter with @LoadBoards.

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.

Check out last week’s report from DAT Solutions here.