Spot rates slide into February

February 14, 2019

Special to Land Line


Spot truckload rates dipped again last week despite higher freight volumes than at this time in each of the past three years.

The number of posted loads and trucks on DAT MembersEdge both increased 4 percent. It’s a sign that the freight is there, just not at the rates we’re used to seeing.

  • Van: $1.91 per mile, down 3 cents.
  • Flatbed: $2.34 per mile, down 1 cent.
  • Reefer: $2.25 per mile, down 4 cents.

Van trends

Hidden strength

Van load posts dipped just 2 percent compared to the previous week while truck posts increased 3 percent. The national average van load-to-truck ratio declined slightly from 4.8 to 4.6 loads per truck, as spot van volumes stayed strong year over year.

Weather retort

Average outbound rates from most major markets are well below where they were a month ago and failed to make gains last week. Higher rates on lanes affected by bad weather in recent weeks drifted down to earth.

  • Chicago to Detroit, down 22 cents to $3.13 per mile.
  • Chicago to Columbus, down 12 to $2.79 per mile.
  • Denver to Albuquerque, down 15 cents to $1.88 per mile.

Flatbed trend

A building market

The number of flatbed load posts increased 16 percent last week while truck posts were up 9 percent. That kind of activity is an indication that construction season is heating up, and helped lift the national average flatbed load-to-truck ratio from 22.6 to 24.1 loads per truck.

Reefer trends

What does the groundhog say?

The national reefer load-to-truck ratio moved down from 6.6 to 5.9 reefer loads per truck. The market continues to cool, which is in line with seasonal expectations. Here’s hoping Punxsutawney Phil is right and we’re in for an early spring.

Eyes on Florida

Regionally, the focus for reefer haulers is shifting to Florida, where it’s still early for citrus harvests but prices are firming up on key lanes out of the state.

  • Miami to Boston jumped 33 cents to $1.98 per mile.
  • Lakeland, Fla., to Baltimore added 19 cents to $1.83 per mile.

Higher prices out of Miami and central Florida likely mean that strawberries, tomatoes, and other mixed vegetables are on the move.

Tri-haul of the week


The average price for a reefer load going from Chicago down to Atlanta fell 20 cents last week to an average of $2.84 per mile, and the return trip was just $1.64 per mile. A tri-haul could pad your profits with a reposition in Montgomery, Ala., if it works with your schedule.

Atlanta to Montgomery averaged $4.72 per mile last week. From there, the average price for a reefer load back to Chicago was $2.42. The extra tri-haul legs add about 200 miles, not counting deadhead, but it would have boosted your rate per loaded mile from $2.24 per mile on the regular roundtrip to $2.83 per mile on the tri-haul. That works out to an extra $1,400 in revenue.

DAT Tri-haul of the3 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.