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Spot rates hold as load volume gains 2%

Spot rates hold as load volume gains 2%

The final week of any month usually means a bump in freight activity as shippers move goods prior to closing their books. But the number of loads posted on the DAT network of load boards market edged up just 2% during the week ending April 29, said DAT Solutions. 

With truck posts rising 8%, load-to-truck ratios fell:

  • Van ratio: 3.4 loads per truck, down 4%
  • Reefer ratio: 5.8, down 13%
  • Flatbed ratio: 44.5, down 7%

While April may have ended quietly, rates rose for all trailer types during the month and load-to-truck ratios were above seasonal norms, signaling a strong start to the second quarter.

National Average Rates

Vans: The national average van rate dipped 1 cent to $1.67/mile, but that rate is still 4 cents higher than the March average
Reefers: The national reefer rate was $1.94/mile for the third week in a row, but 7 cents better than the March average
Flatbeds: The average flatbed rate was unchanged at $2.07/mile throughout April, and 4 cents better than the March average

Van Trends

Nationally, van load posts increased 4% while truck posts increased 8%. On the top 100 van lanes, 50 were down in volume, 41 were up, and nine were neutral. Most changes were slight, though.

  • Los Angeles outbound jumped 3 cents to $2.00/mile
  • Seattle-Spokane hit $2.48/mile, up 6 cents
  • Houston-New Orleans rose 8 cents to $2.28/mile
  • Houston-Oklahoma City added 10 cents for $1.91/mile, a springtime high 

Outbound freight volume and rates declined in Philadelphia ($1.68/mile, down 6 cents), giving up gains made earlier in the month. Philadelphia-Boston tumbled 22 cents to an average of $3.12/mile.

Flatbed Trends

After a 20% gain last week, the flatbed load-to-truck ratio settled down 2% to 44.5. Flatbed load posts increased 2% while truck posts were up 10%.

Reefer Trends

Reefer load posts declined 5% while truck posts increased 10%. But compared to the same period in 2015 and 2016, reefer load-to-truck ratios are solid.

If you looked at the national average reefer rate, you might think that there wasn’t much happening in the spot market, DAT suggests. But there was an influx of produce crossing the Mexican border last week and reefer load-to-truck ratios surged in Nogales, Laredo, and especially McAllen, where volumes soared 64%.

After wildfires interrupted traffic in Florida, produce started moving out of the state again last week. Key outbound lanes:

  • Miami-northern New Jersey reefer rates were up 17 cents to $2.26/mile
  • Lakeland-Baltimore added 24 cents to $2.24/mile

A higher load count out of the Fresno area was offset by declines farther south in California. In fact, California was behind Texas, Florida, and Georgia for reefer load availability.

DAT reports hearing a lot about shipping gaps in California due to delays in planting because of an unusually wet winter, which explains the flat volumes last week. The upside is that the best is yet to come, as the multi-year drought is mostly finished, and California produce should be gaining strength in the coming weeks.

Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on prevailing spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. All reported rates include fuel surcharges.

Get the latest rate trends at

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