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April freight volume was the strongest April on record

May 14, 2018
DAT Freight Index: Spot market truckload volume dips seasonally but the flatbed market and better weather powers first full month of spring.

Spot truckload freight volume had the strongest April on record despite slipping 6.85% lower compared to March, a common seasonal trend. Compared to the same month in 2017, freight availability rose 32% according to the DAT North American Freight Index. Flatbeds contributed disproportionately to the volume increase, with a 59% boost compared to a year ago.

The Freight Index, a monthly measure of demand for spot market freight, is published by DAT Solutions, which operates North America’s largest load board marketplace.

Flatbed freight rates set another record in April, at $2.65 per mile, including fuel, a 12-cent increase over the previous record in March. Flatbed rates were 58 cents higher in April than in the previous year.

Van rates rose to $2.16 per mile, a 2-cent increase compared to March. Rates for refrigerated (or “reefer”) cargo were up 3 cents to $2.43 per mile month over month. Rates gained 49 cents per mile for both trailer types, compared to April 2017.

Rates continued to rise sharply through the first week in May, as the weather improved in the Northeast and Midwest, and produce harvests added to pressure on truck capacity in the Southern band of states, especially Georgia and Florida. 

“May and June are typically peak season for agriculture and construction, and retail freight appears to be expanding, as well,” said DAT industry analyst Mark Montague. “Seasonal demand should keep rates high at least through the end of the second quarter.” 

Referenced rates are the averages, by equipment type, based on $45 billion of actual transactions, as recorded in DAT RateView. Reference rates per mile include fuel surcharges, but not accessorials or other fees. The DAT Freight Index reflects load posting volume on the DAT network of load boards, and 100 on the Index represents the average monthly volume in the year 2000. Additional trends and analysis are available at DAT Trendlines: DAT.com/trendlines.

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