The end of the month didn’t bring the upward bump that we typically see when shippers try to move goods before closing their books. Severe weather might have played a part, with storms and flooding across East Texas and many southern states.
For van rates, rising lanes continue to outnumber falling lanes on a week-to-week basis, but it’s been a slow, long-term trend. Trucks are still relatively easy to find in some parts of the country, which has put a speed limiter on rising rates.
Spot market volumes were down during the first week of April. That's normal, since it comes right after the end of Q1, when shippers are rushing to move freight before closing their books. But we’ve also seen spot market rates strengthening in the past couple of weeks, and so far, that's carried through into April.
The end of Q1 led to a flurry of activity on the load board on Friday. That boosted rates in markets that had otherwise been pretty quiet this spring, but the national average van rate is only 1 cents higher than it was in February. Things may change soon, as March spot market volumes were much stronger than they were in March of 2016, when the average rate last year was 11 cents lower than it is now.
A blizzard has left much of the East Coast buried under snow. That'll no doubt effect freight movements, with trucks banned from some highways in the Northeast while Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Virginia declare states of emergency. There was more activity on DAT load boards at the end of week last week, with shippers wanting to get shipments made before the storm left them stuck.
Last week, we said that if spot market volumes kept climbing, then rates were going to go up finally. Well, load posts soared at the end of February and beginning of March, and rates finally responded. The national average for van rates was up 4 cents, and 56 of the top 100 van lanes paid better, versus the 30 that had declines. The rest stayed put.
Load posts were up a bit again last week, which is the second straight week of improving spot market volumes. Not bad for February. Van and reefer rates have still been on a steady decline since the December peak, but there are signs that van rates might be close to the bottom if they arent already there.
February is the slow season for freight, and it may feel like your business is at a crawl right now. Finding loads and positioning your trucks is harder when there's more competition for loads, so we're going to take a look at where your best bets would be for find van, reefer, and flatbed loads during the slow season.
Late January is typically a time for lower rates and less demand, but spot market volumes haven't fallen off sharply like they did around this same time a year ago. Still, prices have been in a slow and steady decline in many major van and reefer markets.
December was arguably the strongest month for freight in 2016. So even though we're now going through the typical seasonal slow-down for mid-January, rates are still higher than usual in some places for this time of year.