Record Freight Drives Record Rates: March DAT Freight Index

Portland, OR – In a year of record freight on the spot market, March was no exception: freight availability rose 56 percent in March on the DAT North American Index, including Canada, compared to the same month in 2013. Within the U.S. the year-over-year change was even more dramatic. A 64 percent increase was divided among the three equipment categories: vans were up 63 percent, flatbeds 58 percent and 70 percent for refrigerated (“reefer”) trailers.

Compared to February, freight volume increased 17 percent in March. Extraordinary volume from December through February was attributable to extreme winter weather that disrupted supply chains nationwide during what is usually a slow season. In March, however, freight volume also received a boost from increased economic activity and normal seasonal trends, in addition to pent-up demand from recurring storms.

Much of the increased seasonal volume was in the flatbed segment, where load availability rose 38 percent compared to February. Van freight added 10 percent and reefer loads increased 7.0 percent, month over month.

The continued pressure on spot market capacity buoyed spot market rates to new heights in March, as well. Year-over-year rate increases were significant for all three major equipment types: 25 percent for vans, 20 percent for reefers and 13 percent for flatbeds. Compared to February 2014, when extreme weather led to a shift of unusual freight volumes to the spot market, rates in March rose 6.7 percent for vans, 3.6 percent for reefers, and 4.8 percent for flatbeds.

Reference rates are derived from DAT RateView. Rates are cited for line haul only, excluding fuel surcharges, which increased on a month-over-month basis but declined compared to March 2013. The monthly DAT North American Freight Index reflects spot market freight availability on the DAT Network of load boards in the United States and Canada. Additional trends and analysis are available at DAT Trendlines.