A sharp increase in e-commerce traffic and refrigerated produce is extending the busy holiday season for truckload carriers. The availability of spot truckload freight gained in November 2016 on both a month-over-month and year-over-year basis, according to the DAT North American Freight Index.
The November Freight Index reflects a continued pattern of unseasonably strong freight volumes starting in July. Load-to-truck ratios increased significantly for van, reefer, and flatbed freight in November, meaning there were more available loads for each truck posted on the DAT Network of load boards. A change in the ratio is typically followed by a change in freight rates.
Availability of van freight on the spot market surged in November, up 4.9% over October and up 63% compared with November 2015. At $1.46 per mile, the national average van linehaul rate increased 3 cents (2.1%) over October, followed by further rate increases during the first week of December on the strength of traffic from Memphis TN, Denver CO, and other hubs for e-commerce and parcel freight.
Reefer freight availability climbed 20% compared with October, due to robust fall harvests and additional demand for fresh food at Thanksgiving. Year-over-year, reefer volume was up 58% in November. The national average reefer rate was $1.74 per mile, up 6 cents (3.6%) compared with October and 2 cents (1.2%) versus November 2015.
Flatbed freight availability declined seasonally compared with October, but by only 6.1%, a smaller margin than the 10-year average decrease of 26%. Flatbed volume rose 56% compared with November 2015. The increased demand did not translate into an improvement in rates, however. The national average flatbed rate was $1.66 per mile, down 1 cent (–0.6%) month over month, and 6 cents (–3.5%) compared with November 2015.
The average fuel surcharge, a component of the total spot market rate paid to carriers, edged down 1 cent per mile for vans, which represents about a 4.5% change, depending on the equipment type. The surcharge is pegged to the retail price of diesel fuel, adjusting for average fuel consumption by each trailer type.
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