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DAT: April spot freight slips seasonally

May 11, 2016
Last month's volume was down 3.4% from March, but May starts strong

In a typical seasonal pattern, spot-market freight volume edged down 3.4 percent in April compared to March, according to the DAT North American Freight Index. But, in the latest weekly report, May freight is in full bloom.

Spot truckload freight availability in April declined 8.9 percent for dry vans, volume for refrigerated ("reefer") vans slipped 9.4 percent, and flatbed volume increased 3.9 percent. Line-haul rates on the spot market declined 1.5 percent for vans, and 0.6 percent for reefers, but flatbed rates increased 1.2 percent, month over month.

Compared to April 2015, overall spot market freight availability fell 30 percent. Year-over-year declines have been following a consistent pattern in every month since January 2015, due to lower demand for transportation services in the spot market, as well as readily available truck capacity. 

Demand declined 38 percent for vans, 34 percent for reefer trailers, and 22 percent for flatbeds, year over year. Line-haul rates fell 16 percent for vans, 12 percent for reefers, and 8 percent for flatbeds in April, compared to same-month levels in 2015.

However, truckload rates on the spot market increased sharply for all three equipment types during the first week of May on the DAT network of load boards.

Driven by demand for refrigerated and dry vans, the number of loads posted on DAT boards was up 5.1% compared to the previous week. Highlights:

Reefer Loads Up 11%: The number of posted reefer loads increased 11%. Truck capacity gained 5%, pushing the load-to-truck ratio up 6% to 3.4 loads per truck. That means there were 3.4 available loads for every reefer posted on the DAT network.

Reefer Rates Surge: The national average spot reefer rate was up 11 cents to a national average of $1.90 per mile.

Florida Producing: Outbound freight volumes and rates surged in Florida, with Lakeland up 29 cents to an average of $1.91 a mile and Miami adding 23 cents to an average of $2.32 a mile. Miami-to-Baltimore jumped 41 cents to an average of $2.62 a mile.

Vans In Demand: Van load posts rose 11% and the number of available trucks was virtually unchanged. That pushed the van load-to-truck ratio up 11% to 1.8 loads per truck.

Van Rate Jumps 7 cents: The national average spot market rate for vans added 7 cents to $1.57 per mile, including a 2-cent rise in the average fuel surcharge.

Hot Van Markets By Region:

- South Central: Houston, $1.49/mile, up 5 cents

- Southeast: Charlotte, $1.77/mile, up 2 cents

- West: Los Angeles, $1.89/mile, up 3 cents

- Northeast: Allentown, Pa., $1.76/mile, up 4 cents

- Midwest: Chicago, $1.73/mile, up 1 cent


Flats Hold Steady: Flatbed load volume was unchanged while capacity increased 12% from the previous week. That led to a 11% decline in the load-to-truck ratio, from 21.1 to 18.8 loads per truck. The national average flatbed rate added 1 cent to $1.91 a mile.

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.

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, DAT notes. Changes in the ratio often signal impending changes in rates.

DAT Trendlines is a weekly report on spot market freight availability, truck capacity, and rates.

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