Truckload Rates Finally Catch Up to Freight Volumes

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, with national average rates rising for each trailer type.

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for vans in the darker red areas on the Hot States Map, above.

Load counts actually rose in Atlanta, though, and outbound rates were also up. We even saw rates increase on some major inbound lanes, which isn’t typical for this time of year. Van rates were also trending up out of Philadelphia and Los Angeles.


  • Memphis to Atlanta was up 13¢ at an average of $2.23/mile
  • The backhaul lane from Philadelphia to Charlotte added 15¢ to $1.46/mile, which could be a reaction to the conditions in Charlotte — more on that below


A mid-March freeze killed a lot of fruit in Georgia and the Carolinas, which has affected reefer load counts. That may have caused reefer trucks to spill over into van capacity out in Charlotte, with the extra competition driving down outbound van rates.

  • Chicago remains soft, and the lane to Buffalo fell 23¢ to $2.09
  • Houston to Oklahoma City cooled, falling 15¢ to $1.73/mile

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for reefers in the darker blue areas on the Hot States Map, above

Reefer freight has been gaining momentum. Miami continued to ship lots of reefer roads, while Lakeland in the central part of the state joined the Florida parade. Overall, produce areas were up, while urban areas were generally down.


Reefer rates rose out of Nogales, AZ, near the Mexican border. We expect load counts to pick up there and in the border market of McAllen, TX, with avocados shipping ahead of Cinco de Mayo. Shipments out of the Santa Maria District also pushed rates up out of the Fresno market.

  • Rates from Miami to Elizabeth, NJ, were up 32¢ to $1.91/mile
  • Miami to Baltimore also jumped up 21¢ to $1.75/mile
  • Out West, Sacramento to Portland gained 22¢ to $2.44/mile


High volumes of produce are going to urban areas like Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas, so outbound rates fell in those markets. The big surprise was in Southern Idaho. Outbound lanes there dipped slightly despite fairly strong demand ahead of Easter.

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for flatbed in the darker green areas on the Hot States Map, above

Flatbed freight was strong in March, and there was a spike in rates to close the month. Some of that subsided last week, but flatbed is still looking strong, as you can tell by the Hot States Map up above. Texas mostly held steady last week, though volumes were off in Houston and rates dipped in Dallas.


Outbound rates in the past month have surged in Birmingham, Phoenix, Jacksonville, and Los Angeles, and last week saw a big uptick in prices out of Rock Island, IL. Cleveland was also showing signs of life. Lots of lanes were paying summer-like rates last week:

  • Rock Island to Minneapolis was up ▲62¢ to an average of $2.67/mile
  • Rock Island to Kansas City was also up big at $2.81/mile
  • Atlanta to Raleigh added 39¢ to $2.39/mile
  • Out West, flatbed loads going from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City rose 61¢ on average at $3.02/mile


Rates out of Memphis were down after a strong drop in volumes. That could be temporary, considering how strong demand is everywhere else.

  • Memphis to Dallas was down 25¢ to $2.54/mile
  • Las Vegas to Los Angeles fell 71¢ to $2.48/mile, following a very strong March

Find loads, trucks and lane-by-lane rate information in the DAT Power load board, including rates from DAT RateView.