Spot market rates continue to decline seasonally, as volumes for February are slightly off compared to 2017. That loss can be attributed to completion from the railroads, as overall shipments are up slightly year over year, but more shippers have shifted freight over to rail.
Van rates continued to moderate last week, and van load posts declined as we moved into February. Prices are still above the peak for 2017, but the extreme highs in the van segment are declining as we transition into what is usually the slowest month on the spot market.
The energy sector heated up in January, which contributed to higher flatbed load counts for the month. Bad weather in some parts of the country also disrupted construction, though, which led to some pretty uneven changes in flatbed lane rates in January.
Van rates and load counts have been trending down for three weeks, and the national average van rate slipped to $2.26 per mile last week. Those are all normal January trends. That’s still a really high national average, though.
Spot market demand tends to slow down in the middle of January, so it wasn’t surprising that load posts on DAT load boards edged down 4% last week. It was actually the first decline since mid-November that wasn’t related to a shorter work week because of a holiday.
Load posts on the DAT Network have risen steadily since the second week in November, and they were up another 17% last week. What is different, though, is that truck posts surged 52% last week, which was the first full week after the holidays. Those super-high load-to-truck ratios finally started to come back down, but they’re still way above the typical level for any season, let alone the middle of the winter.
The demand for refrigerated trailers peaked at year-end, but the extra-cold weather in many parts of the country has kept prices at record-setting levels in many areas, since those trailers are being used to keep freight from freezing.
The national average van rate has soared in the new year, hitting a whopping $2.30/mile on January 6th. That's a new record high, breaking the one that was set just a week prior, and rates on a majority of the top 100 van lanes continued to climb last week.
Flatbed rates saw a spike in the week before Christmas, but otherwise they’ve stayed pretty close to where they were before Thanksgiving. Not that flatbed rates have been low – they just haven’t continued to climb like van and reefer rates have over the past month.
Truckload capacity on the spot market was already tight before Christmas, but the load-to-truck ratio for dry van freight went through the roof last week. The national average for the week was 12.3 van loads per truck, breaking the record set the week before. The national average van rate for December as $2.11 per mile, the highest of 2017.