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FreightHaul1 Photo: American Trucker

DAT: TL capacity continues to tighten

Freight demand keeps outpacing truck supply, load board operator says.

According to data tracked by DAT Solutions, the number of trucks on the spot TL market didn’t keep pace with freight demand as the first quarter came to a close, pushing load-to-truck ratios higher in the flatbed sector while keeping spot rates at a higher and steady level.

DAT said capacity on its load boards fell 3.1% while the number of loads jumped 3.5% for the week ending March 31, which included Good Friday when freight traffic is typically low. Van and refrigerated load-to-truck ratios remained solid and the flatbed segment hit another record high:

  • Flatbed: 101.5 available loads per truck, up from 87.7 the previous week.
  • Dry van: 7.2, up from 6.9.
  • Refrigerated or “reefer” transport: 10.4, down slightly from 10.5.

Thus, national average spot rates held steady at elevated levels across the TL market:

  • Flatbed spot rate: up one penny from last week to $2.53 per mile.
  • Dry van spot rate: up 2 cents to $2.15 per mile.
  • Reefer spot rate: $2.40 per mile, unchanged for the fifth straight week.

Drilling down into each TL segment, DAT identified several trends.

After a 5.6% increase in load volume the previous week, flatbed freight availability jumped 7% while capacity fell 7.5% – pushing the load-to-truck ratio in the flatbed TL sector up 16% to 101.5 last week. The firm noted that flatbed demand has risen steadily since November, when the segment’s load-to-truck was as low as 26.

In the dry van sector, the number of available spot loads increased 1% while truck posts declined 3%. As a result, spot rates increased on 65 of DAT’s “Top 100” dry van lanes, pushing the national average spot rate up for the fifth consecutive week.

Key dry van markets for the week of March 31 included:

  • Los Angeles: up 3 cents to $2.32 per mile compared to the previous week. The average outbound rate has increased 5.2% over the past four weeks, DAT noted.
  • Dallas: up 5 cents to $2.08 per mile.
  • Memphis: up 6 cents to $2.68 per mile.

Heading into Easter weekend, the number of reefer spot load posts dipped 1.2% while truck posts fell 2%. And though the national average reefer rate remained unchanged, spot rates were lower on 37 of the top 70 reefer lanes tracked by DAT.

Yet the firm added that pricing from the Southeast and West show that shippers in the Southeast and West have produce to move and are willing to pay for it:

  • Miami—Baltimore: up 24 cents to $2.28 per mile.
  • Los Angeles—Portland, OR: up 21 cents to $2.96 per mile.
  • McAllen, TX—Elizabeth, NJ: up 20 cents to $2.64 per mile, back to where the rate was three weeks ago.
  • Imperial Valley/Ontario, CA—Chicago: up 29 cents to $2.14 per mile.
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