Still room for spot truck rates to touch bottom

April 21, 2020

Special to Land Line

|


The volume of loads moved, load-to-truck ratios, and the national rolling average truck rates for April fell again across all three equipment types last week as truckers contemplate whether their next load will come close to coving their running costs.

Truck rates on MembersEdge have declined rapidly and across the board on high-volume lanes since the third week of March. They now rival levels from four years ago, when the country was in a manufacturing recession.

DAT forecasting models indicate that spot rates are expected to flatten in May, helped by seasonal trends like produce season. Easing personal-distancing restrictions around certain economic sectors and regions may help, too, but they’re not necessarily dialed into the models.

National average rates, April

These are rolling national truck rate averages for the month. Pricing has weakened throughout April as volumes have declined. Current averages will be lower.

  • Van: $1.72 per mile, 15 cents lower than the March average.
  • Flatbed: $2.00 per mile, down 19 cents compared to March.
  • Reefer: $1.99 per mile, down 20 cents compared to March.

What to watch

Truck posts fall 9%

After increasing last week because of contract carriers searching for spot loads, the number of trucks posted to declined 9% week over week. But the number of posted loads was down 12% week over week, and the imbalance in supply and demand continues.

Gains are gone

The number of van loads moved fell nearly 9% last week. Compared to March, the average van rate in April is down almost 7.5%, and rates were lower on 95 of the top 100 van lanes by volume last week. Van spot rates have given back all of the gains from March.

Van ratio ticks up

The national average van load-to-truck ratio increased from 0.8 to 0.9 last week. A low van ratio isn’t unusual this time of year but we’re talking about a sub-1.0 number, meaning there are more trucks than loads on the board.

Reefer ratios dip

The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio edged down from 1.5 to 1.3. Of the 72 top reefer lanes on the DAT network, rates were lower on 69 lanes.

Looking ahead

These are crucial weeks for small carriers and independent operators, which are vital capacity for fruit and vegetable producers. If a large number can’t financially hang on until produce season, or rates are too low to operate, or crop yields are poor, the impact on ag and the food supply chains could be significant.

This summary’s month-to-date national average rates were generated using DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. The RateView database is comprised of more than $68 billion in freight payments.

For the latest spot market updates related to COVID-19, visit DAT.com/industry-trends/covid-19 and follow @LoadBoards on Twitter. You can post comments on the DAT Freight Talk blog or on the DAT Facebook page. You can listen to the DAT MembersEdge report every Wednesday on Land Line Now.

J.J. Keller