January is typically slow in the spot truckload freight market, and so far this year fits the pattern.
Load volume and average truckload rates drifted downward during the week ending January 31, 2015, reports DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards. The number of loads posted on DAT boards fell 6.1% and the number of trucks posted increased 0.1% compared with the previous week.
Some key metrics from DAT Trendlines for the week:
•Stormy weather, seasonal norms—The national average van rate retreated 2 cents to $1.94 per mile (the linehaul portion of the rate slipped 1 cent and the average fuel surcharge lost 1 cent), in line with seasonal norms.
The first big winter storm of 2015 was a test for supply chain managers and carriers that added equipment, hired more operational employees, and improved procedures and infrastructure after 2014’s transportation fiasco.
The average spot van rate out of Buffalo rose 12 cents to $2.15 per mile the week ending January 31, but in general snowy weather in the Northeast had a marginal effect on the market. The worst weather materialized over the weekend, giving businesses a chance to plan ahead. Also, storms were localized over New England and New York, unlike in 2014 when harsh conditions were more widespread.
The national average flatbed rate remained at $2.21 per mile, while the rate for refrigerated freight dropped 3 cents to $2.24.
•Van, reefer load-to-truck ratios decline—Van freight availability continued a seasonal adjustment with an 8.4% decrease in the number of van loads posted to DAT load boards. Available van capacity rose 19% compared with the previous week. The van load-to-truck ratio dropped from 2.2 to 2.0 loads per truck, meaning there were 2.0 van loads posted for every available van on DAT load boards the week ending January 31.
Demand for reefers declined 7.3% and capacity added 3.6% in a typical trend for late January. The reefer load-to-truck ratio sunk from 6.9 to 6.1 reefer loads per truck.
Flatbed load availability dipped 3.2% and capacity edged up 0.2% the week ending January 31. The resulting flatbed load-to-truck ratio held steady at 10.0 loads per truck.
•How low can fuel go?—The national average fuel price ended the week down 4 cents at $2.83 per gallon. Falling fuel prices tend to have a dampening effect on spot market rates. When fuel prices slip, the surcharge drops and the total rate may decline accordingly.
Load-to-truck ratios represent the number of loads posted for every truck available on DAT load boards. The load-to-truck ratio is a sensitive, real-time indicator of the balance between spot market demand and capacity. Changes in the ratio often signal impending changes in rates.
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. RateView’s database consists of more than $24 billion in freight bills in more than 65,000 lanes.
For complete national and regional reports on spot rates and demand, go to www.dat.com/Trendlines.