DAT Freight Index: August Spot Freight Falls Below 2017 Levels, as Rates Remain 20% Higher

PORTLAND, Ore. — Spot market freight availability dropped in August for the second month, due mostly to a sharp decline in demand for flatbed equipment. A seasonal lull in searches for dry van trailers, the most common equipment type, also contributed to the late-summer slump. Refrigerated (“reefer”) volume rose to near-peak levels, however, according to the DAT North American Freight Index, a monthly indicator of transportation trends.

“Interestingly, August was the strongest month this year for the number of loads that moved on the spot market, according to the DAT RateView database,” explained DAT pricing analyst Mark Montague. “Load posting volume declined seasonally in the DAT load board marketplace however, because 3PLs and freight brokers were able to find trucks more efficiently,” he added.

That year-over-year shortfall is likely to persist through September, as comparable spot market demand was inflated in the fall of 2017 due to massive supply chain disruptions caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Beginning in the fourth quarter, anticipated strength of the holiday freight season should again boost spot market demand above the prior year’s results.

Spot market rates slipped a few cents lower compared to July, but rates remained 20 percent above August 2017 averages for all equipment types.

Van rates fell 13 cents to $2.14 per mile in August, due to an increase in available capacity, while flatbed rates slid 12 cents to $2.64, on declining activity in the energy and construction sectors. Rates for refrigerated (“reefer”) equipment dropped 10 cents to $2.49 per mile, as produce harvests entered a seasonal transition.

Compared to August 2017, spot rates for van equipment rose 35 cents per mile, flatbeds added 46 cents, and reefers got a 41-cent increase.

Established in 1978, DAT operates a network of load boards serving intermediaries and carriers across North America. For more than a decade DAT has published its Freight Index, which is representative of the dynamic spot market.

Referenced rates are the averages by equipment type, based on $57 billion of actual transactions, as recorded in DAT RateView. Reference rates per mile include fuel surcharges, but not accessorials or other fees. The DAT Freight Index reflects load posting volume on the DAT network of load boards, and 100 on the Index represents the average monthly volume in the year 2000. Additional trends and analysis are available at DAT Trendlines.