Van Rates Sag, Flatbeds Add 2 Cents, Before Q1 Closes

We're just a few days away from Easter and Passover, which coincide with the close of the first quarter. It's common for shippers to hustle freight out the door before the quarter ends, and this is the deadline. Plus, a lot of businesses close early on Good Friday, and some drivers will be reluctant to leave home over a holiday weekend, so that adds to the pressure.

Then there's the much-hyped start of the penalty phase on the ELD mandate, which kicks in on Sunday. The vast majority of trucks already have ELDs installed, so the April 1 might not be such a big deal after all, but we'll know for sure in a few days. (If you still need an ELD, get in touch with KeepTruckin and ask for a demo.)

DAT provides the largest and most trusted digital freight marketplace in the trucking industry, with more than 179 million loads and trucks posted annually, plus insights into current spot market and contract rates based on $45 billion in real transactions.

Meanwhile, we already saw more loads hitting the load board last week, and some more trucks, too, but things might have been a little bit quieter than usual because of spring break. Even so, load-to-truck ratios got a boost for all three equipment types, and national average rates are staying up. They may go even higher before the end of this week.

  • Van: $2.13/mile, down a penny compared to the previous week but volumes are building
  • Flatbed: $2.52/mile, up 2¢ to the highest rate since Summer 2014
  • Reefer: $2.40/mile, unchanged for the fourth week in a row

Van rates were higher on 57 of the Top 100 lanes, which is a tipping point for the season. Load-to-truck ratios were highest along the East Coast, and in much of the Sun Belt, as freight moves into position for “last mile” trips to the major population centers.

HOT MARKETS: Houston keeps humming, and rates are up 9% on major outbound lanes. Houston has been alternating with Atlanta as the number-one spot for van load posts over the past few weeks. Meanwhile, Buffalo had a bounce-back week, and it was in the mix on several key van lanes:

  • Columbus to Buffalo, up 30¢ to $3.73/mile
  • Philadelphia to Buffalo, up 23¢ to $2.93/mile
  • Buffalo to Charlotte, up 18¢ to $2.59/mile

NOT SO HOT: Denver, where outbound rates were down 0.5% last week and 2.5% over the past four weeks.

Flatbeds continue to rise steadily, as industrial freight is moving in. Check out last week's Hot States Map. Arizona was the only state with a load-to-truck ratio below 18, and the national average was in the high 80s for the third week in a row. Flatbed load volumes added another 5.6% last week, following a 9% increase the week before. Rates are up too. On the 75 major flatbed lanes, 50 had rising rates and only 25 trended down — giving you 2-to-1 odds of higher pay for your flatbed last week on those high-volume routes.

HOT MARKETS: Rock Island, IL, is home to farm equipment manufacturers, who must have shipped a bunch of orders last week. There were 40% more flatbed loads leaving Rock Island, compared to the week before, and the average rate rose 6% on the highest-volume lanes out of that market. Houston rates are close to $3.00/mile on heavily trafficked lanes — that's another good sign for skateboarders in the nation’s biggest energy freight hub. Regional lanes to watch:

  • Rock Island to Grand Rapids, up 51¢ to $3.63/mile
  • Dallas to El Paso, up 53¢ to $2.40/mile

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

Peggy Dorf

Peggy joined DAT in 2008 as a writer and market analyst. She was instrumental in developing DAT Trendlines, and she writes extensively about the impact of economic trends on companies and individuals in transportation and logistics. Peggy is a Certified Transportation Broker with decades of experience in technology marketing and an MBA from the Wharton School.