Spring Came Early in These Freight Markets

Last week, we said that if spot market volumes kept climbing, then rates were going to go up finally. Well, load posts soared at the end of February and beginning of March, and rates finally responded. The national average for van rates was up 4¢, and 56 of the top 100 van lanes paid better, versus the 30 that had declines. The rest stayed put.

The number of loads available on the spot market last month was also up more than 100% compared to February 2016, which is a pretty good sign that the freight recession really is over. Rates are still low in some places, but in general, things are trending upward.

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

There were a lot more van loads available out of Chicago and Los Angeles. Even though it wasn’t enough to turn those states dark in the Hot States Map above, don’t be surprised if rates are up out of those places soon. Load counts slipped in Houston, but that market has been relatively strong all winter long. It closed the week strong, too, and the load-to-truck ratio hit 5.6 on Friday, compared to the 2.9 van loads per truck for the rest of the country. Rates got the biggest boosts out of Memphis, Atlanta and Seattle.

All rates below include fuel surcharges and are based on real transactions between brokers and carriers.


Buffalo has had a lackluster month. Since the freight coming out didn’t pay very well, inbound lanes paid more.

  • Philadelphia to Buffalo was up 18¢ to $2.13/mile
  • Columbus to Buffalo rose 17¢ to $2.57/mile
  • Chicago to Buffalo rates were up 15¢ to an average of $2.17/mile
  • Out West, the lane from Stockton to Denver recovered 13¢ to pay $1.82/mile on average
  • Memphis to Chicago was also up 12¢ at $1.76/mile


Only one major van lane was down more than 10¢: Stockton to Salt Lake City dropped ▼18¢ to $1.92/mile

The freight market in L.A. finally started to improve, but that means some inbound lanes paid less. The lane from Chicago to L.A. fell ▼9¢ to just $1.17/mile. That lane competes a lot with rail, which also keeps the rates down.

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


Reefer rates reversed course last week, too, though it was a bit slighter when compared to vans. Still, it’s good news considering the steady string of declines we had been seeing.


Volumes surged out of Miami. It’s still early for produce season in Florida, as evidenced by the light color in the Hot States Map. Volumes were also up big in McAllen, TX, down near the Mexican border. It was number 3 for reefer load posts on DAT load boards, behind Atlanta (1) and Elizabeth, NJ (2).

  • Usually when there’s an uptick in loads and rates out of Miami, it means that the inbound rate goes down — that wasn’t the case last week on the lane from Atlanta to Miami, which was up ▲15¢ to $2.58/mile
  • Dallas to Columbus was up ▲21¢ to $1.70/mile

The biggest spikes were on lanes out of Grand Rapids, but there aren’t a lot of loads on those lanes this time of year.

  • Grand Rapids to Cleveland jumped up ▲50¢ to $3.34/mile
  • Grand Rapids to Philly rose ▲38¢ to $2.88/mile


California was still missing in action, and outbound rates slipped even lower out of Los Angeles. Recent rains have delayed strawberry harvests in much of the state, so those shipments are still a few weeks away.

Out East, two lanes out of Northern New Jersey took a hit last week

  • Elizabeth, NJ, to Boston fell ▼15¢ to $3.40/mile
  • Elizabeth to Lakeland, FL was down ▼12¢ to $1.71/mile

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


Demand for flatbed trucks continued to climb ahead of where it normally is for this time of year. Even California joined the party last week, with higher than normal activity.


Rates improved almost everywhere, and port cities that had been down the week before rebounded last week. The biggest gains were in Atlanta, Memphis, and Baltimore.

  • Memphis to Dallas was up ▲39¢ to $2.74/mile, with a nice boost in volumes
  • Atlanta to Nashville also climbed ▲35¢ to $2.58/mile


Pittsburgh rates and volumes didn’t hold after seeing a spike in the previous week.

  • The number of loads heading from Pittsburgh to Houston was down sharply, and rates came crashing back to earth at an average of $1.67/mile
  • Phoenix and Las Vegas volumes have been low, which is indicative of statewide trends in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.
  • Cleveland has also been a little softer than other major flatbed markets this winter


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

< Back to posts