Spot freight demand indicators soften, yet rates hold in the past week

Updated Dec 28, 2020

Spot truckload freight postings fell 15% by volume while the number of trucks posted as available on the DAT load boards increased 13% last week, a sign metrics are loosening ahead of the Christmas holiday, said DAT Freight & Analytics.

Figured as an average across thousands of transactions, rates nationwide were generally flat compared to the previous week.Figured as an average across thousands of transactions, rates nationwide were generally flat compared to the previous week.

National average rates, December through the 13th
**Van: $2.48 per mile, 4 cents higher than November
**Flatbed: $2.44 per mile, 1 cent higher
**Reefer: $2.66 per mile, 3 cents lower

More van freight, lower rates | The number of loads moved on DAT’s top 100 van lanes by volume jumped 24.2% compared to the previous week, but the average spot truckload rate fell on 62 of those lanes. The rate was neutral on 19 lanes and increased on 19 lanes.

Each of the top 10 van markets registered double-digit increases in volume compared to the previous week but recorded lower average outbound rates. Among them:

**Chicago: $2.99/mile, down 11 cents even with a 23.4% increase in volume
**Los Angeles: $3.34, down 11 cents on a 24% increase in volume
**Stockton, California: $2.77, down 16 cents on an 18% increase in volume
**Atlanta: $2.50, down 16 cents on a 20% increase in volume
**Houston: $2.09, down 1 cent on a 27% increase in volume

The busiest lanes for van load volume last week involved Los Angeles and Stockton. L.A. to Stockton averaged $3.76 a mile, up a penny, while Stockton to L.A. averaged $2.16 a mile, down 8 cents.

Reefer volumes cool | Nationally, the average reefer load-to-truck ratio dropped from 9.0 to 5.5 last week, with food shipments in a lull between holidays. The number of loads moved on DAT’s top 72 reefer lanes by volume has fallen nearly 21% over the last four weeks.

The average rate was higher on just 13 of those lanes compared to the previous week but some of those increases were big ones:

**Tucson, Arizona, to Los Angeles: $2.40 a mile, up 20 cents
**Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Cleveland: $4.19, up 25 cents
**Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Boston: $5.62, up 22 cents

Houston flatbeds come to life | The national average flatbed load-to-truck ratio dipped from 35.8 to 35.5 last week, still well ahead of the monthly average of 13.2 this month last year. Pricing on DAT’s top 78 flatbed lanes was steady, with the average outbound rate up on 24 lanes, lower on 27 lanes, and neutral on 27 lanes. Volume on these lanes increased 1.5% week over week.

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Houston is a vital market for flatbed freight and three of the top five lanes by volume last week originated there:

**Houston to Fort Worth: $2.41 a mile, up 1 cent compared to the previous week
**Houston to New Orleans: $2.78, down 6 cents
**Houston to El Paso: $2.20, up 2 cents

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said last week that Houston-area mining and manufacturing businesses have a net loss of 14,000 jobs since April. While layoffs, consolidation and bankruptcies in energy-related manufacturing continue to mount, the biggest job losses are likely in the past, the Dallas Fed reported.

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