Spot load post volume drops 13% as rates dip

April 24, 2019

Special to Land Line


The number of load posts on DAT MembersEdge fell 13% last week, with activity tapering off significantly as Easter weekend approached. As load post volume dropped, the number of trucks posted was virtually unchanged compared with the previous week. With less freight available, rates slumped on lanes across much of the country.

National average spot rates through April 20

  • Van: $1.82 per mile, down 3 cents compared to the March average.
  • Reefer: $2.15 per mile, 2 cents lower.
  • Flatbed: $2.34 per mile, unchanged.

Van and reefer rates declined despite a 3-cent rise in the national average price of diesel, which was $3.15 a gallon last week. Spot rates include a fuel surcharge portion.

national average van load-to-truck ratio chart
The national average van load-to-truck ratio peaked at 1.8 last Tuesday before dropping below 1.0 by Friday.

Van trends

Rates were up on 42 of the top 100 van lanes week over week. The van load-to-truck ratio peaked on Tuesday at 1.8 loads per truck and skidded to 0.8 by Good Friday. Sounds incredible, but van freight volumes are actually 11% higher versus this time last year.

Where rates are rising

Los Angeles and Denver had higher average outbound rates, but those were the only standout markets. Just a handful of lanes had double-digit rate increases compared to the previous week, including:

  • Los Angeles to Seattle, up 10 cents to $2.27 per mile.
  • Denver to Dallas gained 10 cents to $1.24 per mile.
  • Atlanta to Philadelphia rose 17 cents to $2.10 per mile.

Where rates are falling

All major van markets lost volume as many shippers and receivers ran on a reduced schedule on Good Friday. In general, demand and rates were weakest in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. Two examples:

  • Buffalo to Charlotte dropped 20 cents to $1.93 per mile.
  • Chicago to Denver fell 15 cents to $2.29 per mile.

Flatbed trends

Flatbed load post volume has slowed after a strong first quarter. Weather across the U.S. appears to be a factor, as well as reduced oil production in West Texas.

On the bright side, volumes in the Sunbelt are improving, and recovery from flooding in the Midwest is creating opportunities to move heavy equipment and construction supplies. And with produce season under way, onions, potatoes, and melons can be moved short and intermediate distances in open-air containers on flatbeds.

Where rates are rising

Flatbed rates increased on major lanes from Houston, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Among them:

  • Houston to Los Angeles surged 46 cents to $2.24 per mile. Such a large rate increase on a relatively high-mileage flatbed lane is a sign that the Los Angeles market is picking up.
  • Las Vegas to Phoenix gained 42 cents to $2.97 per mile. Usually it’s L.A. that drives up rates in Las Vegas, so to see Phoenix here is another unusual occurrence.

Where rates are falling

Southeast and Northeast markets faded last week, driven by lower rates from Atlanta; Cleveland, Ohio; and Harrisburg, Pa.

  • Harrisburg to Springfield, Mass., plunged 46 cents to $3.60 per mile. That’s still a good rate for this lane.
  • Phoenix to Dallas dropped 36 cents to $1.51 per mile. That’s not a good 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 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.