Spot Market Gets a Strong Start to May

Early May brought higher spot market rates for each trailer type. For vans and reefers, the national averages were the highest they’ve been since January at $1.70/mile and $1.97/mile respectively. For flatbed, the national average was the highest it’s been in nearly two years at $2.09/mile.

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

Spot market van volumes slipped last week, with some energy sector freight leaving the van marketplace. Still, the previous week’s volume leaders were last week’s biggest rate gainers, and 52 of the top 100 van lanes saw higher rates, compared to the 37 which paid less. The other 17 held steady week-over-week.

Houston rates jumped up 3% higher last week, and prices out of California are trending up due to tomato production. Tomato harvests obviously equal more reefer freight, but processed and canned tomatoes in paste and sauces also lead to more van freight. From June to October last year, California shipped 500,000 loads of processed tomato products.


  • Historically, Houston to Chicago is a low-paying backhaul lane, so it’s rare to see the price jump up 13¢, especially when rates and volumes are also up out of Chicago. It still only averages $1.47/mile, but that’s high considering the normal rate.
  • Houston to New Orleans also rose 13¢ at $2.38/mile
  • Outbound rates in the Northeast are trending down, so the 9¢ bump on the lane from Allentown, PA, to Richmond, VA at $2.07/mile bucked that trend


Philadelphia continued to slide:

  • Philly to Buffalo dropped 13¢ to $2.14/mile
  • Philly to Boston also dipped 10¢ to $3.02/mile

Denver to Albuquerque has been more up-and-down than usual, and last week it fell 10¢ for an average of $1.64/mile.

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

Despite the recent small downturn in volumes, flatbed rates have been surging this spring. Prices have been volatile on a lane-to-lane basis, though. Oil prices have cooled, which may start to slow things a bit, but construction in various markets is still fueling demand.


High demand out of Houston and Savannah has also boosted rates out of Ft Worth and Atlanta, with freight hitting the seaports and then moving inland through the conversion process.

  • Savannah to South Carolina’s Inland Port (Greer/Greenville/Spartanburg) soared ▲79¢ to an average of $3.35/mile – that’s a rare thing since it was from one hot market to another…
  • …but the fact that the lane from Savannah to Charlotte also jumped up ▲55¢ to $3.48/mile proved that it wasn’t a fluke

A couple lanes out of Nevada have benefited from construction:

  • Las Vegas to Los Angeles rose ▲64¢ to $3.35/mile
  • Reno to Los Angeles gained ▲39¢ for an average of $2.33/mile


  • The lane from Baltimore to Springfield, MA, went from super-hot to just strong, down 61¢ to $3.34/mile
  • While rates from Vegas to L.A. were up, flatbed rates for loads going to Northern California were down – Las Vegas to Stockton dropped ▼60¢ to $1.98
  • Flatbed loads heading north out of Birmingham, AL, paid less than the southbound lanes, and the lane to Chicago fell ▼31¢ to $2.13/mile – demand for flats still hasn’t picked up in Chicago

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