Second week going: Van volumes rise, but spot rates slide; weather disruption something of a norm

Van load counts rose for the second straight week but the overall number of van, refrigerated and flatbed loads fell 5% during the week ending Oct. 27, said DAT Solutions, operator of the network of DAT  load boards.

Plentiful capacity, though, has pushed load-to-truck ratios lower and held rates down. But if van volumes continue to build — holiday freight coming into U.S. ports and a resolution to the General Motors strike are positive developments — we’re bound to see rates go up as well.

National average spot rates for October (through Oct. 27)
**Van: $1.80 per mile, 4 cents lower than the September average
**Flatbed: $2.18 per mile, 2 cents lower
**Reefer: $2.11 per mile, 5 cents lower

Market to watch: Vans out of Los Angeles
The number of van loads on DAT’s Top 100 van lanes by volume nearly hit a record last week, yet rates were higher on just 32 of those 100 lanes. Freight is moving; rates, not so much.

Dat Lt Ratio Los Angeles Oct 27 Wide Copy 2019 10 30 15 12

The strongest van markets are out West. Los Angeles volumes increased 8% and the average outbound rate gained 2 cents to $2.18 per mile. The load-to-truck ratio in L.A. touched 5.2 last Friday, a positive turn for carriers and a sign of better days ahead for imported retail goods. Seattle, up 1 cent to $1.61 per mile, improved on last week’s modest gain, and Denver rose a penny to a still paltry $1.19 per mile. Both are perennially low-priced markets with sub-national-average outbound rates.

Trend to watch: Weather and wildfires
Stockton, Santa Rosa, Napa, and the areas near I-5, Hwy. 101, and the Santa Cruz Mountains are experiencing both the end of produce season and the disruptive and devastating effects of wildfires, extreme winds, evacuations and blackouts. Volume is down 5% out of Houston and Dallas this month, and weather has played a role. Flooding in Houston at the end of September was worse than what Hurricane Harvey brought in 2017, and then, last week, the Dallas area was hit by the most destructive tornadoes in Texas history. In the background, a sharp drop in the number of active oil wells this year has taken a bite out of the Texas economy. We’re also seeing record cold and treacherous travel in Utah, Colorado, and Montana.

The weather could be a trend to watch every week.

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