Spot Market Volumes Are Strong, but Rates Still Lag

The end of Q1 contributed to a flurry of activity on the load board on Friday. That pushed rates up in markets that had otherwise been pretty quiet, but the national average van rate ended up only 1¢ higher than it was in February. On the other hand, spot market volumes last month were a lot stronger than they were in March of 2016, when the average rate last year was 11¢ lower than it is now.

The big story the past few days as been the I-85 bridge collapse in Atlanta. We don’t anticipate a lot of impact as far as long haul freight goes, since pickup and delivery can be adjusted to avoid the extra traffic on the 285 loop. The highway closure could affect freight going to and from the Carolinas and other points to the northeast, though. Those loads account for only about 10% of Atlanta’s truck traffic. Southbound freight into Florida is the biggest factor, though, and the missing bridge may not have much impact there.

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

Load counts were up in Los Angeles and Stockton, CA last week, and volumes made a nice jump up in the Midwest. That’s good for the national picture going forward, especially since we finally have L.A. back in the mix. Most changes in price were slight, but the overall trend was positive.


On the top 100 van lanes, 62 paid better, while rates slipped on only 28 of them. The other 10 were neutral. Notable increases:

  • Charlotte to Buffalo rates rose 15¢ to an average of $2.17/mile
  • Memphis to Chicago was up 11¢ to $1.77/mile
  • The lane from L.A. to Denver paid 10¢ better at $1.77


Not many. The biggest dip was 8¢ on the lane from Seattle to Eugene, OR, which paid $2.05/mile on average. It was Spring Break at University of Oregon, probably the biggest freight receiver in the Eugene market, so that decline could be temporary.

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

If you just look at the national average reefer rate, you’d think things were pretty quiet last week, when in fact there were a lot of big swings on a market-by-market basis.


Did you know that California ships 87% of the strawberries in the U.S.? Berries started moving out of Santa Maria in late February, and Ventura County is gearing up for peak shipping season. The Salinas / Watsonville area in the San Francisco market is also getting underway, with everyone trying to get those berries to store shelves ahead of Easter.

  • Cross-border volumes surged in Nogales, AZ
  • The lane from Dallas to Columbus jumped up 33¢ to $2.02/mile
  • Miami had more reefer freight last week, which pulled trucks away from Central Florida. The tighter capacity led to a 21¢ spike on the lane from Lakeland to Charlotte at $1.68/mile
  • Fresno to Denver is still well below summer pricing, but it picked up 21¢ to $2.14/mile last week


Western Michigan is a major egg producer, and those are shipping in large numbers ahead of Easter. Eggs are usually cheap freight, though. They’re fragile, but they don’t require much more than minimal cooling. They are to reefers what mulch is for vans.

  • So even though volumes spiked on the lane from Grand Rapids to Cleveland, reefer rates tumbled 81¢ to $2.52/mile
  • Denver to Houston came back down after a spike, falling 28¢ to $1.49/mile
  • Miami volumes were up, but there was no trouble finding trucks on the lane to Baltimore, so rates dropped 14¢. Fewer reefers competing for van freight helped lift the van load-to-truck ratio, though. It was better than usual in Miami on Friday.

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