Trend to watch: Flatbed, as rates in all segments make modest gains

The national average flatbed load-to-truck ratio improved to end May at 13. That sounds good on its face, but keep in mind it was almost 90 a year ago.The national average flatbed load-to-truck ratio improved to end May at 13. That sounds good on its face, but keep in mind it was almost 90 a year ago.

National average spot rates inched upward during the holiday-shortened week after Memorial Day, led by gains in the country’s most active van, reefer, and flatbed lanes, said DAT Solutions, which operates the network of DAT load boards.

National average spot rates, through June 2
*Van: $1.86/mile, 6 cents higher than the May average
*Reefer: $2.21/mile, 6 cents higher than May
*Flatbed: $2.27/mile, 4 cents higher than May

Trend to watch: Flatbed freight
At the end of May 2018 there were 90 flatbed load posts for every truck post and the average spot rate was $2.72/mile. A year later the load-to-truck ratio was 13 and the average rate was $2.28/mile, and those are encouraging numbers for a freight segment where construction has been slowed by bad weather, and shippers of raw materials and heavy machinery face uncertainty over trade.

Houston, Phoenix, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Rock Island, Ill., and Roanoke, Va. market areas all showed stronger volumes the week ending June 2, and average rates were higher on 49 of the top 78 flatbed lanes last week, including:

**Fort Worth to Houston, up 9 cents to $2.30/mile (the return averaged $2.65/mile)
**Phoenix to Ontario, Calif., up 11 cents to $1.87/mile
**Rock Island, Ill. to Minneapolis, up 17 cents to $2.72/mile

Market to watch: Vans in the Eastern U.S.
Spot rates were higher on 73 of the top 100 van lanes nationwide and the van load-to-ratio increased nearly a full point to 2.6. Volumes and rates were generally positive in the East: Buffalo ($1.97/mile average outbound, up 4 cents), Philadelphia ($1.65/mile, up 7 cents), and Allentown, Pa. ($1.97/mile, up 5 cents) produced some of the better lane-rate gains last week, with Philadelphia to Boston surging 30 cents to $3.33/mile. Strong spot van volumes in the Eastern U.S. is a good sign for the movement of general retail and packaged goods as we head into summer.

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