How the spot market fared in February
How the spot market fared in February

DAT reported that the average van rate nationwide dropped last month. However, that was expected to happen.

Mike Sullivan of DAT said: “That’s pretty typical.”

What’s less typical is that the national average is still higher than it was at any point in 2017.”

Sullivan noted that spot prices slumped “more slowly” in February. However, last month’s volumes were still higher compared to any point in 2017.

The spot market has been performing well after the ELD mandate took effect on December 18.

In fact, Truckstop.com reported that spot market per-mile rates in all three major truckload segments — namely, dry van, reefer, and flatbed — went up further in January after the implementation of the federal mandate requiring non-exempt fleets to use an electronic logging device instead of paper logs.

Reefer and dry van rates, in particular, reached seven-year highs during the first month of the year.

Reefer rate data

February is usually the slowest month of the year for spot freight, and declines in reefer rates have been sharper than in the van segment. But then again, reefer rates also started from a much higher point, so they had further to fall,” DAT said.

DAT revealed significant shifts in load counts in major refrigerated freight markets that led to price swings.

Outbound volume rose in Nogales, Arizona, and Sacramento, California but there’s no shortage of trucks in those areas. Potatoes are on the move again, boosting load counts out of Twin Falls, Idaho, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, although prices haven’t responded yet.”

There was a huge hike in the Green Bay to Des Moines (Iowa) lane as rates increased 42 cents to $2.95 per mile on average, possibly due to snowstorms that hit the area in February.

DAT also mentioned that several areas that were sources of produce “are either inactive or have falling prices.” Citrus and avocado shipment stimulated rates on the Ontario to Chicago route as the reefer rate went up to $2.24 per mile — an increase of 37 cents.

In Florida, DAT said reefer rates had been “unusually high for a while, but volumes have started to back down.”

Rates dropped in routes from Miami.

  •   Miami to Baltimore dropped 39 cents to $2.05 per mile. Nevertheless, the rate was still high for February.
  •   Miami to Boston went down to $2.53 per mile — a drop of 32 cents.

DAT said further that potatoes and apples continued to be shipped out from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but the market fell compared to previous records.

Specific data is as follows:

  •   Grand Rapids to Madison — $2.80 per mile (down 72 cents)
  •   Grand Rapids to Philadelphia — $3.98 per mile (down 49 cents)
  •   Green Bay to Minneapolis — $2.56 per mile (down 39 cents)
  •   Twin Falls to Baltimore — $2.48 per mile (down 34 cents on average)

Flatbed rate data

The flatbed rates in the Gulf Coast and Sunbelt regions were robust. In Memphis, the flatbed rate rose six percent.

Houston was the number one market for flatbed volumes. The average rate in the area increased as well.

However, flatbed rates out of L.A. went down seven percent, while Roanoke, Virginia also saw a price slump.

Tampa, Florida was usually the lowest-paying flatbed market, but in February, the distinction went to Phoenix, Arizona.

Dry van data

DAT said: “With a few exceptions, prices were stable out of the major markets for van freight last week.”

Van load counts rose in both Houston and Chicago, which is another sign that we could be looking at an early spring for spot freight this year.”

Two routes out of the Gulf Coast paid better last month, according to DAT.

They were New Orleans to Dallas, which rose 19 cents to an average of $2.15 per mile, and the Houston to Los Angeles route (which competes heavily with rail), where rates were up 11 cents to $1.64 per mile.

In the U.S. Northwest, the lane from Seattle to Spokane in Washington rose 23 cents to $3.14 per mile.

Because of the off-season for retail, DAT said there were sharp drops in rates on lanes going into the Northeast detailed below:

  •   Columbus, Ohio to Buffalo, New York — down 42 cents to $3.42 per mile
  •   Chicago to Buffalo — down 25 cents to $3.11 per mile
  •   Buffalo to Allentown, Pennsylvania — down 24 cents to $3.58 per mile
  •   Columbus to Allentown — down 23 cents to $3.56 per mile

What’s next?

DAT reported that average van rates went down in the second month of the year, but DAT assured that the decline was “pretty typical.”

DAT quickly added that what was uncommon “is the fact that the national average is still higher” than at any time last year and there was evidence of a momentum buildup.

The implementation of the ELD rule has, so far, been positive for the spot market, which should prod noncompliant fleets to comply with the law.

Carriers are encouraged to procure their ELDs so they can start enjoying the benefits that come with the device.

If you have not yet purchased an ELD for your fleet, check our ELD price comparison and ELD features comparison tool so you can choose which among the ELD manufacturers are offering the best ELDs.

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DAT reported that the average van rate nationwide dropped last month. However, that was expected to happen. Mike Sullivan of DAT...
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DAT reported that the average van rate nationwide dropped last month. However, that was expected to happen. Mike Sullivan of DAT...
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