The DAT North American Freight Index climbed 47% in March 2017, the first month-over-month increase of the year as shippers ramped up freight activity, reported DAT Solutions, which operates an on-demand freight exchange.
Spot truckload rates responded with only modest gains, however. The national average spot rates for van and refrigerated freight added just 1 cent to $1.63 per mile and $1.87 per mile, respectively, compared with February, including average fuel surcharges.
“Rates rose in the last week of March, as shippers rushed freight out to end the quarter on a high note, but that was not enough to offset soft market conditions from early March,” said Don Thornton, senior vice-president, DAT.
Demand for trucking services in construction and energy was particularly strong for spot flatbed freight.
Flatbed load posts rose 45% while truck posts advanced 6% over February. That pushed the flatbed load-to-truck (L/T) ratio up 38% to 36.6, meaning there were 36.6 available flatbed loads for each truck on the DAT network—a 109% gain over March 2016. A flatbed L/T ratio of 18 is considered very favorable for carriers, and the average flatbed rate was up 6 cents to $2.03 per mile.
Van load posts surged 47% and truck posts climbed 13% in March versus February, for a national average van L/T ratio of 3.2, which is below the 5.5 ratio favoring carriers. Likewise, reefer loads jumped 49% and truck posts increased 14% for a L/T ratio of 6.2. A ratio of 12 is considered extremely favorable to refrigerated carriers.
Rates continued to rise in the first week of April, however, signaling a strong start to the second quarter.
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