Refrigeratedtransporter 3075 Dat Na Freight Index 122017

Spot market truckload demand outpaces capacity at year-end 2017

Jan. 19, 2018
See how December 2017 capped a banner year for spot market truckload demand, according to DAT Solutions.

December 2017 capped a banner year for spot market demand. The monthly national averages for both dry and refrigerated van rates were the highest of 2017, while the national average flatbed rate matched its yearly peak.

Availability of truckload freight in December—bolstered by retail shipments, demand for fresh and frozen foods, and e-commerce fulfillment—was 25% higher than in December 2016 as measured by the DAT North American Freight Index.

The index, a sensitive indicator of demand for transportation services, is published monthly by DAT Solutions, which operates North America’s largest digital truckload freight marketplace.

Overall freight volume fell 3% compared with an exceptionally strong November, but other capacity constraints such as inclement weather in several parts of the nation, plus the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that went into effect December 18, meant shippers and freight brokers paid premiums for available trucks.

Van rates averaged $2.11 nationally, up 4 cents versus November. That’s the highest monthly average since DAT started tracking freight rates in DAT RateView in 2010.

Van volumes rose 12% month-over-month in December, while truck posts decreased 14%. That resulted in a load-to-truck ratio of 9—also the highest monthly average ever recorded in DAT Trendlines. The load-to-truck ratio measures the number of available loads for each truck posted on the DAT Network of load boards, and a change in the ratio often signals impending changes in rates.

Late-autumn harvests also pushed the reefer load-to-truck ratio up 18% to 14.1, its highest point since March of 2014. The average reefer rate for December was $2.46 per mile, which was 3 cents higher than the November average and another all-time high.

Flatbed trends were less dramatic. Volumes gained 2% compared with November, while the national average rate remained at $2.33 per mile for the third month in a row.

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