Week to week rates thaw — drip, drip, drip into February

National average spot truckload rates for major segments other than flatbed entered February in a slow-motion slide after closing out January at their lowest points in two months, said DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards.

National average spot rates, January
**Van: $1.88 per mile, down 6 cents from the December average
**Reefer: $2.25 per mile, down 3 cents from December
**Flatbed: $2.17 per mile, unchanged

Rates fell further during the first two days of February. The average rates for vans ($1.82 per mile ), reefers ($2.12), and flatbeds ($2.11) all were down in weekend activity.

Trend to watch: Reefer declines and van demand

The average reefer load-to-truck ratio dipped to 3.4 over the last week, with very few hot spots of high truck band across the nation.The average reefer load-to-truck ratio dipped to 3.4 over the last week, with very few hot spots of high truck band across the nation.

The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio slipped from 3.8 to 3.4 as demand for temperature-controlled capacity continues to sag. The biggest price movements for spot reefer freight were on the losing side of the ledger:

**Tucson, Arizona, to Dallas: $2.19 per mile, down 19 cents
**Twin Falls, Idaho, to Baltimore: $2.50, down 21 cents
**Dallas to Columbus: $2.00 per mile, down 1 cent
**Los Angeles to Portland: $2.69, down 15 cents

When reefer demand cools, it can drag van rates down, too, since reefer carriers can look for van loads when reefer freight isn’t available. The van load-to-truck ratio was 1.6 for the second straight week — as a national average, that ratio is not going to move pricing in truckers’ favor.

Market to watch: McAllen produce
Some of the higher load-to-truck ratios right now are in McAllen, Texas, one of the main ports of entry for fresh produce and other goods from Mexico. There were more than 1,000 reefer load posts on DAT load boards in that area during the past week, and more than 500 van load posts.

Avocados are a big driver of demand for produce haulers in McAllen. Exports to the United States for the 2019-’20 agricultural marketing year are forecast at 1 million metric tonnes, a 12% increase over the previous year. But avocado traffic will start to wane now as February marks the end of the primary harvest season in Mexico, the Super Bowl is over, and Cinco de Mayo is still three months away.

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