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Spot Van, Reefer Rates Fall While Flatbeds Keep Climbing

February 15, 2017, by Evan Lockridge

The flatbed market continued to be the brightest of the three major spot truckload sectors last week, according to new numbers released by DAT Solutions, based on activity from its load boards.

The national average spot rate for flatbed freight hit $1.96 per mile during the week ending Feb. 11. That performance marked the fourth straight week of increases and a 4-cent jump compared to the previous week.

Flatbed rates in some lanes went well past the $2 per mile mark, but there were some exceptions:

  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-Baltimore, $2.53 per mile
  • Rock Island, Illinois-Cleveland, $2.28 per mile
  • Atlanta-Memphis, $2.17 per mile
  • Houston-Ft. Worth, $2 per mile
  • Phoenix-Los Angeles, $1.65 per mile

All reported rates include fuel surcharges. This latest activity happened as the average national price of on-highway diesel added 1 cent last week to $2.57 per gallon.

The number of flatbed load posts last week rose 11% while truck posts declined 1%. This sent the flatbed load-to-truck ratio up 13% to 24.6 loads per truck nationally.

In contrast, average rates for spot van and refrigerated freight declined again, a typical pattern for January and February.

This happened as overall spot load postings on the DAT network increased 1.7% while the number of trucks gained 3.2%, indicating strong freight volumes and available capacity for this time of year, according to the freight-matching service provider

The reefer load-to-truck ratio slipped from 5.2 to 4.7 loads per truck nationally as the number of posted reefer loads fell 7% and capacity decreased 5% last week. The average reefer rate edged down 2 cents to $1.89 per mile.

The hot market for reefers was Miami, where there was a burst of potato shipments. The better-paying lanes out of Miami last week included:

  • Miami-Elizabeth, New Jersey, up 35 cents to $1.84 per mile
  • Miami-Boston, up 33 cents to $1.99 per mile
  • Miami-Atlanta up 33 cents to $1.66 per mile

Volume also spiked out of Lakeland, Florida, but it’s still too early for a seasonal surge of Florida produce, however, the availability of more loads in Florida is a welcome change compared to recent weeks, according to DAT.

Meantime, the number of van load posts declined 6% last week while truck posts increased 3%. That caused the load-to-truck ratio to slip from 2.6 to 2.4 loads per truck.

Despite the lower load-to-truck ratio, the volume of van freight rose 2.5% on the top 100 van lanes and is 2% higher than a month ago. This could a indicate a bottoming-out of van rates if volumes continue to climb.

The national average van rate fell 3 cents compared to the previous week, hitting $1.63 per mile, and gave ground in many major markets:

  • Los Angeles, $1.88 per mile, down 2 cents
  • Chicago, $1.92 per mile, down 2 cents
  • Atlanta, $1.84 per mile, down 1 cent
  • Philadelphia, $1.53 per mile, down 6 cents
  • Dallas, $1.48 per mile, down 1 cent

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