Rates fall back a bit for vans, though volumes rebounded from prior week

Van freight volume on the spot market rebounded to pre-holiday levels during the week ending Jan. 12, said DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT electronic marketplace for spot truckload freight.

National average truckload van and refrigerated rates fell slightly compared to the previous week but remain at 13-month highs. It’s a relatively strong start to the year, but a downward trend for the short term is expected.

National average spot rates through Jan. 12:
**Van: $1.94 per mile, same as December
**Reefer: $2.33 per mile, 3 cents higher than December
**Flatbed: $2.19 per mile, 2 cents higher than December

Trend to watch: Will volumes and rates hold?

Van freight volume typically retreats in January but we have yet to see it. The national average load-to-truck ratio for van equipment was 3.2, edging down from the previous week but still favoring carriers—for now.Van freight volume typically retreats in January but we have yet to see it. The national average load-to-truck ratio for van equipment was 3.2, edging down from the previous week but still favoring carriers—for now.

In spot of volumes rising after the first week of the new year, carrier pricing power along van lanes has been softening as more truckers post equipment on the spot market — rates were lower on 73 of DAT’s top 100 van lanes last week.

As for reefer, it’s normal for reefer freight volume to increase from December to January, but rates typically slip as winter takes hold. There were two recent-history exceptions, both to start good spot market years in 2014 and 2018, when rates rose month-over-month in January, compared to December of the prior year. In both of those years, higher rates in January were part of a longer-term trend. At $2.33 per mile thus far, the average reefer rate in January sits 3 cents higher than December.

Market to watch: Buffalo vans
Buffalo
was one of those van markets where pricing picked up last week. Rates were higher on several outbound lanes, perhaps driven by weather. Among them:

**Buffalo to Chicago: $1.77 per mile, up 12 cents.
**Buffalo to Charlotte: $2.43 per mile, up 16 cents.

Trouble is the return trips paid much less on average week over week. Chicago to Buffalo fell 26 cents to $2.78 a mile and Charlotte to Buffalo lost 38 cents to $2.24.

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