The October 2017 DAT North American Freight Index continued a 17-month streak of year-over-year increases in load availability, driving spot market rates to new heights for all equipment types.
Volume soared 65% higher than October 2016, but dipped 3% compared with September, according to DAT Solutions, which operates a digital truckload freight marketplace.
October is typically a high point for contract freight associated with holiday retail. This year, that included a surge of port traffic on both coasts. That demand was compounded by ongoing recovery and rebuilding after third-quarter hurricanes, and the extra pressure on truckload capacity led to an increasing shift of freight to the spot market.
“Early November results, coupled with trends in recent years, indicate that spot freight volume and rates are likely to rise again before the end of December,” said Mark Montague, senior industry analyst at DAT.
For van trailers, October’s freight availability surged 66% year over year, even after an 8% seasonal decline versus September. The additional demand boosted the national average spot van rate by 5 cents to $2.02 per mile, including fuel, setting a three-year record that was 37 cents (22%) higher than the average for October 2016.
Demand for refrigerated capacity followed the trend for vans, with a year-over-year gain of 68% coupled with a 5% decline compared with September. The national average reefer rate rose to $2.31 per mile, the highest monthly rate since December 2014. The linehaul portion of the rate (sans fuel) was the highest since 2010, when DAT began publishing spot market rates. Reefer rates continued to climb in the first week of November, due to demand for fresh and frozen foods for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Seasonal trends differed for flatbed demand, which rose 5% over September. The expansion was driven by ongoing post-hurricane recovery and rebuilding in Texas and Florida. With a 105% increase year over year, flatbed freight availability achieved the highest-ever level for the month of October. The national average rate was up 5 cents to $2.33 per mile, a 41-cent advance from October 2016. Flatbed rates typically drop seasonally in the winter, and rates already began to slip lower in the first week of November.
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