March 7, 2018

Spot market update for February: Rates, demand, and volume

Spot market update for February-Rates demand and volume

The national average van rate fell in February, but the decline was “pretty typical” for that month, according to DAT Solutions.

What’s interesting though “is the fact that the national average is still higher than it was at any point in 2017,” said Matt Sullivan of DAT.

Sullivan also noted that spot prices fell “more slowly” last month while volumes were higher than they were in January, “so there are signs of momentum building.”

Dry van rates

With a few exceptions, prices were stable out of the major markets for van freight last week. Van load counts rose in both Houston and Chicago, which is another sign that we could be looking at an early spring for spot freight this year.”

Two routes out of the Gulf Coast paid better last month, DAT reported.

  • New Orleans to Dallas rose 19 cents to an average of $2.15 per mile
  • Van rates in Houston to Los Angeles were up 11 cents to $1.64 per mile. That lane competes heavily with rail.

In the Northwest, the intrastate lane from Seattle to Spokane rose 23 cents to $3.14 per mile.

DAT noted that since it was retail off-season, there were sharp rate declines on lanes going to Northeast markets in February.

  • Columbus, Ohio to Buffalo, New York — down 42 cents to $3.42 per mile
  • Chicago to Buffalo — down 25 cents to $3.11 per mile
  • Buffalo to Allentown, Pennsylvania — down 24 cents to $3.58 per mile
  • Columbus to Allentown — down 23 cents to $3.56

Reefer rates

About reefer rates, DAT pointed out that “February is usually the slowest month of the year for spot freight, and declines in reefer rates have been sharper than in the van segment.”

But then again, reefer rates also started from a much higher point, so they had further to fall.”

DAT also said there were “dramatic shifts” in load counts in the major markets for refrigerated freight, resulting in price swings.

DAT noted that “volumes were up big in four very scattered markets.”

Outbound volume rose in Nogales, Arizona, and Sacramento, California but there’s no shortage of trucks in those areas. Potatoes are on the move again, boosting load counts out of Twin Falls, Idaho, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, although prices haven’t responded yet.”

A lane out of Green Bay (Green Bay to Des Moines, Iowa) experienced a considerable hike as rates rose 42 cents to an average of $2.95 per mile, possibly because of snowstorms in the area last month.

DAT said while most produce areas “are either inactive or have falling prices,” shipments of avocado and citrus boosted rates in the Ontario, Canada to Chicago, Illinois lane as the reefer rates went up 37 cents to $2.24 per mile.

Reefer rates out of Florida had been “unusually high for a while, but volumes have started to back down,” DAT said.

Rates fell on two lanes out of Miami. They were:

  • Miami to Baltimore — down 39 cents at $2.05 per mile, which is still high for February
  • Miami to Boston — dropped 32 cents to $2.53 per mile

Apples and potatoes continued to roll out of storage places in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but the market slumped in recent weeks compared to past highs:

  • Grand Rapids to Madison — down 72 cents to $2.80 per mile
  • Grand Rapids to Philadelphia — down 49 cents to $3.98 per mile
  • Green Bay to Minneapolis — down 39 cents to $2.56 per mile
  • Twin Falls to Baltimore — down 34 cents on average at $2.48 per mile

Flatbed rates

Flatbed rates in the Sunbelt and Gulf Coast were strong as ever, with prices in Memphis, Tennessee up by six percent. Houston was the number one market for flatbed volumes, and their average rate also went up.

Flatbed rates out of Los Angeles, however, dropped seven percent while prices in Roanoke, Virginia slid.

Tampa, Florida was considered the lowest-paying among major flatbed markets, but Phoenix, Arizona had that distinction last month.

Flatbed volumes and prices were similar to where they were in January, but both were much higher than they were a year ago.

Last January, spot market rates even reached record highs.

Record levels in January

Truckstop.com reported that the spot market per-mile rates in all three major truckload segments — reefer, dry van, and flatbed — continued to go up in January after the enforcement of the ELD mandate last December 18.

The data also revealed that reefer and dry van rates reached seven-year highs.

The ELD mandate requires non-exempt truckers to install an electronic logging device.

The bottom line

The average van rate in the U.S. dropped in February, but DAT said it was typical for that month. The company also added there were signs of a buildup in momentum in the market.

The spot market has been active and even reached record levels since the ELD rule took effect. The positive impact of the ELD mandate on the trucking industry underlines the need for carriers to comply with the federal mandate.

Moreover, the April 1 ELD enforcement deadline is fast approaching. Non-exempt drivers without ELDs after that deadline will face severe penalties.

If you are looking for a reliable and FMCSA-compliant ELD, try KeepTruckin.

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