Spot freight rates up to start September

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The blue line is the “all-in” spot van rate, with the orange line below it separating out a calculated average fuel-surcharge. For now, rates are rising in September, running counter to last year’s trends when a long fall began following the same month.The blue line is the “all-in” spot van rate, with the orange line below it separating out a calculated average fuel-surcharge. For now, rates are rising in September, running counter to last year’s trends when a long fall began following the same month.

The spot truckload freight market’s relatively strong finish in August continued into September as rates moved higher last week, said DAT Solutions.

The number of posted van, refrigerated, and flatbed loads on the DAT network of load boards from Sept. 2-8 fell 7% compared to the previous week, and the number of posted available trucks declined 12%. But the week of course included Labor Day, and declines of 20% are more typical when you compare a shorter workweek to a longer one.

National average spot rates by segment, September 2019 (through Sept. 8)
**Van: $1.88 per mile, 7 cents higher than the August average
**Flatbed: $2.21 per mile, 1 cent higher than August
**Reefer: $2.19 per mile, 5 cents higher

Trend to watch: 2.5 van loads per truck, the ‘Magic Number’
Spot van rates tend to rise when the load-to-truck ratio tops 2.5 on DAT load boards, DAT says. The van ratio peaked at 3.5 last week before settling to an average of 2.7, and indeed rates on 68 of the top 100 biggest van lanes by volume were higher compared to the previous week. Average outbound rates from Atlanta ($2.16 per mile, up 5 cents), Charlotte ($2.10 per mile, up 6 cents), and Philadelphia ($1.83 per mile, up 6 cents) picked up as shippers shopped for capacity to move goods ahead of Hurricane Dorian.

Generally, rates increased on lanes moving toward the path of the storm:

**Charlotte to Lakeland, Fla.: $2.37 per mile, up 19 cents
**Allentown, Penn., to Richmond, Va.: $2.58 per mile, up 15 cents
**Philadelphia to Charlotte: $1.68 per mile, up 15 cents

Market to watch: East Coast reefers
Because the worst of Dorian missed heavily populated areas in the United States, the effects on transportation thankfully weren’t as severe as predicted. However, the national reefer load-to-truck ratio averaged 5.0 last week, a half-point better than the August average, and reefer rates moved higher for the second week in a row. Some of this is attributable to storm-related supply chain shifts on the East Coast.

Elizabeth, N.J., to Boston saw the average rate rise 42 cents to $4.36 per mile. Tolls and traffic make that an expensive lane to run at any time of year, but $4.36 is the highest average rate we’ve seen for general reefer freight, at least for a lane that involves more than 225 miles. Pricing pressure may be coming off this week with weather and logistics patterns returning to normal.

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