The availability of truckload freight on the spot market hit a lull during the week ending July 18, leading to a decline in load-to-truck ratios and rates across all three equipment types, according to DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards.
The average rate for vans dropped 2 cents to $1.85 per mile last week as van load availability fell 15%. The van load-to-truck ratio fell to 1.7 loads per truck, meaning there were 1.7 available van loads for every truck posted on the DAT network—a 16% decline. Available van capacity was stable (up 1.4%).
Average spot van rates were down in key markets across much of the country, including Los Angeles, where the average rate fell 3 cents to $2.32 per mile; Atlanta, down 6 cents to $1.92; Charlotte, down 5 cents to $2.28; Philadelphia, down 2 cents to $1.74; and Houston, down 2 cents to $1.63.
The volume of load posts for refrigerated freight fell 20% last week and truck posts increased 1.3%, yielding a 21% decline in the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio. The ratio of 3.9 loads per truck was accompanied by a 2-cent drop in the average spot market rate, slipping to $2.17 per mile.
Flatbed load posts decreased 10.7% while truck posts increased 9.3%, pushing the load-to-truck ratio down 18% to 11.6 flatbed loads per truck. The national average flatbed rate slipped another 1 cent to $2.15 per mile.
According to Mark Montague, a mathematician and statistician at DAT, spot market capacity rebounded from the July 4 holiday week with a 25% week-over-week increase in truck posts. At the same time, he said in his blog, there was a big increase in the volume of loads moved by many of the brokers who contribute to DAT RateView.
Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which provides reports on prevailing spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends, DAT said. Load-to-truck ratios represent the number of loads posted for every truck available on DAT load boards.
In his blog, Montague poses the question: “If this representative group of brokers moved more loads last week than they did in the previous week, why didn’t the load board volume reflect a big week-over-week increase?”
Montague explains that part of the reason is because shippers were slow to gear up after the holiday weekend, but trucks were ready to move. And, he added, because the post-holiday week marked the beginning of a typical July lull a lot of the demand was accommodated by large and mid-sized contract fleets.
“July will be over, and the retail freight season should ramp up shortly after that,” Montague said. “Meanwhile, brokers can use this time to emphasize business development, with new, value-added services, a new region or equipment type, or a customer and cargo type that had a different seasonal or regional focus from your current network.”
“Freight volume should pick up again in a few weeks, as imports start to arrive in advance of the Christmas selling season,” he added. “Regional shifts are already underway.”
All reported rates include fuel surcharges; the national average price of diesel declined 3 cents to $2.78 last week. DAT Trendlines offers national and regional weekly reports on spot market freight availability, truck capacity and rates.