Freight Photo: Sean Kilcarr/Fleet Owner

DAT: TL spot rates soared in January

Increased shipper demand coupled with capacity reductions due to the ELD mandate boosted spot rates to all-time highs.

TL spot rates for dry van, flatbed, and refrigerated or “reefer” freight all set new records in January, according to data tracked by load board operator DAT Solutions, due to the combination of increased shipper demand and truck capacity reductions resulting from the imposition of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate last December.

DAT said the national average dry van spot rate hit $2.26 per mile in January, up 15 cents compared to December and 59 cents higher than January of 2017, setting an all-time record. January’s spot rate also exceeded the average contract rate by 14 cents, meaning TL carriers were paid more for one-time loads from freight brokers than for longer-term contracts negotiated directly with shippers.

At $2.66 per mile, the national average reefer spot rate was 18 cents higher month over month and 71 cents higher compared to January 2017. As with dry vans, the reefer spot rate was higher than any monthly average since at least 2010 and was 31 cents higher than the average contract rate – what the firm dubbed “an extraordinary gap” for reefer freight in January.

The national average flatbed spot rate hit $2.39 per mile in January, seven cents higher compared to December and 47 cents higher year-over-year, DAT noted. The spot rate beat the average contract rate by seven cents while flatbed line haul rates, excluding fuel surcharges, were higher in January than in any previous month. When fuel surcharges are added, however, January’s total rates for flatbeds were a few cents lower than in the summer of 2014, when average surcharges were 20 cents above today’s levels.

Economic growth contributed to the surge in spot rates but so did capacity constraints related to ELDs, as many fleets reported that the transition to the electronic devices hampered productivity, at least temporarily.

Those factors caused demand for spot TL freight services to increase 28% over December and 65% compared to January 2017, DAT noted.

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