Spot truckload prices accelerate, capacity tightens

Spot truckload prices accelerate, capacity tightens

Strong load-to-truck ratios during the final week of 2016 led to some of the highest spot truckload prices of the year, reported DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards.

The number of posted loads outpaced trucks during the week ending December 31, traditionally a slow period for freight. Load availability fell 17% while truck availability dropped 29%; tighter capacity led to higher load-to-truck ratios:

•Reefers L/T—11.2 (up 19%)

•Vans L/T—4.3 van loads per truck (up 9%)

•Flatbeds L/T—26.8 (up 27%)

National average spot rates increased:

•Reefers—$1.99/mile, up 2 cents

•Vans—$1.73/mile, a 2-cent gain from the previous week

•Flatbeds—$1.95/mile, up 1 cent

Spot TL rates include a fuel surcharge. The national average price of on-highway diesel rose again, to $2.59/gallon.

If van trends were positive the week ending December 31, reefer trends were off the charts. That’s because the shipment of southern crops happened to overlap with additional demand for fall crops that moved out of storage.

There was more demand for reefers in the Midwest to prevent freezing of temperature-sensitive cargo. Put it all together and you get an unusually strong rebound in reefer rates, with a national average rate that matched the June peak. Key lanes:

•Grand Rapids MI-Cleveland OH, $3.63/mile, up 64 cents. Apples and a few weeks of extremely cold weather contributed to soaring prices.

•Dallas TX-Phoenix AZ, $1.71/mile, up 48 cents

•Chicago IL-Denver CO, $2.96/mile, up 65 cents

Van load posts decreased 22%, but truck posts dropped 29%. While activity slowed overall, retail distribution centers continued to drive van freight activity as shippers rushed to move loads before they closed the books on 2016. Higher rates out of several key markets are signs of strong retail trade:

•Los Angeles CA, $2.16/mile, up 5 cents

•Columbus OH, $2.14/mile, up 7 cents

•Dallas, $1.60/mile, up 4 cents

•Atlanta GA, $1.99/mile, up 6 cents

•Philadelphia PA, $1.77/mile, up 6 cent

The number of flatbed load posts sunk 16%, but truck posts plummeted 34%. That pushed the load-to-truck ratio up 27% to 26.8 loads per truck nationally—the highest weekly flatbed ratio since June 2015.

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.

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, go to

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