Solid freight activity not enough to keep spot rates from falling

Flatbed, Freedom XP
The number of flatbed load posts fell 7 percent while truck posts were down 5 percent compared to the previous week. (Courtesy: GREAT DANE)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Spot truckload rates tumbled during the week ending January 26 despite increases in van and refrigerated load-to-truck ratios, according to DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards.

The national average van rate fell below the $2 per mile mark for the first time since September 2017. National average spot reefer and flatbed prices moved lower for the third straight week.

Following are the national average spot truckload rates:

Van: $1.97/mile, down 4 cents

Flatbed: $2.37/mile, down 1 cent

Reefer: $2.34/mile, down 3 cents

Low fuel prices have contributed to recent spot-rate declines (spot rates include a surcharge for fuel). The national average price of on-highway diesel was $2.96 per gallon last week, unchanged from the previous week.

Van Trends

The number of posted dry vans on DAT load boards fell 8 percent compared to the previous week while the number of posted loads held steady, a sign that freight volume remains solid.

Indeed, the van load-to-truck ratio increased to 4.0 loads per truck; it hit a 20-month low of 3.7 the previous week.

However, spot van rates continue to weaken especially in the West. The sharpest drop has been from Los Angeles, where the average outbound rate fell 13 cents to $2.12/mile. That’s down 19 percent over the past four weeks. The average rate from Los Angeles to Chicago was down 19 cents last week to just $1.30/mile.

Flatbed Trends

The number of flatbed load posts fell 7 percent while truck posts were down 5 percent compared to the previous week. As a result, the national flatbed load-to-truck ratio slipped from 21.7 to 21.2 loads per truck.

Reefer Trends

Reefer load posts increased 4 percent while truck posts fell 8 percent, which caused the national reefer load-to-truck ratio to move up from 4.9 to 5.6 loads per truck. Average outbound prices softened in many key markets:

Grand Rapids, Michigan: $3.30/mile, down 7 cents

Chicago: $2.73/mile, down 7 cents

Atlanta: $2.55/mile, down 1 cent

Dallas: $2.06/mile, down 4 cents

Elizabeth, New Jersey: $1.99/mile, down 7 cents

What to watch this week: the effect of extreme weather on spot rates.

Winter storms cause trucking operations to slow, which has the effect of reducing available capacity. The weather also affects shippers and receivers who may have trouble maintaining staffing levels and schedules. Restricted capacity can drive rates up, while slowdowns in business and consumer activity can push rates down. Ultimately, the timing and severity of this current winter storm will determine the impact on rates.

DAT Trendlines are 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 $60 billion in freight payments.

DAT load boards average 1.2 million load posts searched per business day.

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, visit and follow @LoadBoards on Twitter.


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