DAT: One year after touching bottom, spot truckload rates are soaring

DAT Flatbed LTR
According to a DAT Freight & Analytics report for the week ending May 3, flatbed load post volume on the DAT network increased 3% week over week, while the number of available trucks fell 7%. (Courtesy: DAT)

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Spot truckload rates remained near all-time highs during the week ending May 3, one year after bottoming out as U.S. economies closed during the pandemic., according to a report from DAT Freight & Analytics.

The seven-day average line-haul rate for dry vans was $2.27 a mile for the week, 95 cents higher than the same period one year ago (line-haul rates exclude a fuel surcharge). Spot refrigerated freight averaged $2.61 per mile, up 94 cents compared to the same week a year ago. The average flatbed rate was $2.62 per mile, a 93-cent increase year over year and 30 cents higher than the same period in 2018, when flatbeds rates were at their previous peaks.

With a fuel surcharge, the national average spot van rate was $2.68 a mile during the first three days of May. The reefer rate was $3.10 per mile, and the flatbed rate $3.02.

Trends to watch

  • There are more than 102 flatbed loads for every available truck.

Flatbed load post volume on the DAT network increased 3% week over week, while the number of available trucks fell 7%. The flatbed load-to-truck ratio topped 100 for the first time this year to reach 102.7, meaning there were more than 102 available flatbed loads for every available truck on the DAT network. The number of loads was more than four times higher than the same week last year, and 21% higher than the highest level reached in 2018.

  • Rates rose despite lower volume.

In the 10 largest flatbed markets, the rate increased by 18 cents per mile on average compared to the previous week, despite a 7% decline in available loads. In Houston, flatbed volume was down 5% week over week, yet the average outbound spot line-haul rate increased 17 cents to $2.70 per mile.

  • Dry van volume increased 5%.

The number of van loads on the DAT network increased 5% during the week ending May 3 as shippers cleared their docks of month-end freight. Truck posts dropped by the same amount, leaving the van load-to-truck ratio largely unchanged at 4.9. The average line-haul rate for dry van freight was $2.27 per mile last week, up 3 cents compared to the previous week.

  • Van rates declined in large markets.

At $2.45 per mile, the average spot rate in the 10 largest van markets fell 1 cent, although the number of available loads was up 2%. Atlanta was the top market for available van loads, as volume increased 9% compared to the previous week.

  • Reefer load posts increase 11%.

After falling for the previous three weeks, the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio increased to 10.7 loads per truck. The number of available reefer loads was up 11% last week and capacity tightened with 6% fewer trucks posted.

  • Mother’s Day shipments were in bloom.

Mother’s Day is May 9, and the National Retail Federation said U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $220.48 on gifts and other items for a total of $28.1 billion. Using NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes to convert retail revenue into tons, Mother’s Day spending equates to around 150,000 truckloads using $12,000 per ton as a rough guide.

In the two weeks leading up to May 9, roughly 70 truckloads per day head north from Miami where 80% of all floral volume is handled by just three carriers. Last week, outbound reefer volume from Miami was up 31%. On the heaviest lanes, including New York City, three-day spot line-haul rates averaged around $3.70 mile last week; Miami to Chicago averaged $2.74 per mile; Miami to Atlanta averaged $2.77 per mile; and Miami to Los Angeles averaged $1.86 per mile excluding fuel.

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