Freight volumes fall but spot van, reefer rates stay firm

Spot truckload freight volumes fell a bit during the first week of January compared to previous weeks in December, but rates maintained what momentum they’d had to close out last year, said DAT Solutions, which operates DAT electronic marketplace for truckload freight.

National average spot rates through Jan. 5:
**Van: $1.97 per mile, up 2 cents from the December average
**Reefer: $2.35 per mile, up 5 cents
**Flatbed: $2.17 per mile, unchanged

Trend to watch: Shifting produce patterns
Reefer load counts declined on half of DAT’s top 72 reefer lanes by volume but only three of the top lanes had declining rates.

The biggest increases were on lanes that originate in southern Florida and Texas, big markets for produce imports where load-to-truck ratios (charted above) were something of a mixed bag. These areas, as well as Elizabeth, New Jersey, propelled rates on south-to-north reefer lanes.The biggest increases were on lanes that originate in southern Florida and Texas, big markets for produce imports where load-to-truck ratios (charted above) were something of a mixed bag. These areas, as well as Elizabeth, New Jersey, propelled rates on south-to-north reefer lanes.

A few big moves in the averages on lanes in the last week:

**Lakeland, Florida, to Baltimore jumped from $1.94 to $2.81 per mile, up 87 cents
**Miami to Boston increased 48 cents to $2.38
**Tucson, Arizona, to Los Angeles added 47 cents to $2.65
**McAllen, Texas, to Elizabeth added 42 cents to $2.93

The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio was 9.3 last week, up from 7.8 at the end of December. That’s good news for reefer carriers, who have a lot of choices right now, especially in southern markets.

Market to watch: Atlanta vans
At $1.97 per mile, the national average spot van rate was 3 cents a mile higher last week than any monthly van average rate since 2018. Freight volumes rose on 50 of the top 100 van lanes compared to the previous week. Van rates gained traction on high-volume lanes originating in several major hubs for retail freight, including Atlanta.

Dry van rates rose from Atlanta to Lakeland ($2.82 per mile, up 11 cents); Miami ($2.66, up 14 cents); Charlotte ($2.67, up 7 cents); Memphis ($1.68, up 3 cents); and Dallas ($1.79, up 4 cents).

With the holidays over, some lanes with big increases leading up to the Christmas holiday reverted to slow-season form. This includes lanes with destinations in the aforementioned Memphis as well as Columbus and Chicago, all associated with retail freight. Columbus to Memphis rates dropped like a rock, from $2.07 to $1.79, a 28-cent loss.