Post-Easter bounce? Spot freight volumes continue to build

May 1, 2019

Special to Land Line


We thought the spot truckload freight market might rebound after Good Friday and the Easter weekend. Sure enough, the number of loads on DAT MembersEdge was up 1% compared to the holiday week.

But even though truck posts fell 4%, there was enough capacity to cover demand. National average spot rates through April 28 remained at or below their averages for the month of March.

National Average Rates Through April 28

  • Van: $1.81 per mile, 4 cents lower than the March average.
  • Reefer: $2.15 per mile, 2 cents lower.
  • Flatbed: $2.34 per mile, unchanged

While spot rates are lower, the price of fuel crept up 2 cents to $3.17 per gallon as a national average. That’s a 10-cent increase during the month of April.

Van trends

Rates were up on just 37 of the top 100 van lanes last week. The good news is that volumes –loads actually moved – are higher than they’ve been at this time in the past three years. The national van load-to-truck ratio rose from 1.3 to 1.6, meaning there was a bit less competition for those loads.

Where rates are rising

Five of the top six van markets had higher freight volumes, with Houston and Stockton, Calif., up by double-digit percentages compared to the previous week. Average outbound rates were higher in key markets, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Charlotte, and Buffalo. Los Angeles factored into several important lanes.

  • Los Angeles to Chicago: $1.43 per mile, up 10 cents.
  • Phoenix to Los Angeles: $1.32 per mile, up 6 cents.
  • Seattle to Los Angeles: $1.28 per mile, up 6 cents.

Where rates are falling

It’s been tough getting a decent rate out of Denver. For instance, Denver to Houston dropped 18 cents to $1.16 per mile last week, and Denver to Chicago fell 13 cents to $1.07 per mile. If you’re going there, make sure the trip into Denver covers most of your costs.

Reefer trends

Rates declined on 41 of the top 78 reefer lanes last week and the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio slipped from 2.6 to 2.5. But there’s reason for optimism.

Where rates are rising

Demand is building in north and central Florida; Lakeland had about 20% more reefer loads available last week. The average rate from Lakeland to Charlotte increased 19 cents to $2.04 per mile.

Grape harvests in Mexico helped drive up volumes up from Nogales, Ariz., and cherry growers in California are expecting record crops this year. Some early cherry harvests will be exported but there will be plenty left to distribute throughout the United States this month

Tri-haul of the week

There’s reefer freight to move out of Lakeland, so let’s find a TriHaul to get you there and maximize your profits on the way out.

Last week Chicago to Lakeland averaged $2.20 per mile but just $1.59 per mile on the return. If you click on the tri-haul function in DAT MembersEdge, one of your more profitable options is a stop in Louisville, Ky.

Lakeland to Louisville averaged $2.56 per mile last week, and Louisville to Chicago was $2.11 per mile. This tri-haul would add just two miles to your return trip but increase your overall rate per loaded mile by 42 cents – good for $1,009 in additional revenue. If you can make it work with your hours, you could have an opportunity to make some money there.

DAT tri-haul of the week chart

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 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.