Spot loads falling thanks to high contract rates, plugged supply chain

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Load-post volume on the DAT network fell 9% for the week ending Oct. 24 compared to the previous week and is now down 15% month-over-month as higher contract rates and jammed supply chains contribute to lower spot volumes.

National average load-to-truck ratios for dry van, refrigerated and flatbed freight all declined week-over-week and at 5.1 loads per truck, the van ratio hit its lowest point since the third week of June. It has declined for four straight weeks.

Spot van freight averaged $2.48 a mile excluding a fuel surcharge last week – 30 cents higher than this time last year and up 72 cents over the same period in 2018.

Flatbed rates continue to weaken seasonally across much of the country. At $2.58 per mile, the average line-haul flatbed rate was down 3 cents week over week. It’s the first time since April that the 7-day national average flatbed rate has been lower than $2.60 a mile. The flatbed load-to-truck ratio dipped from 46.5 to 42.6.

The average spot reefer line-haul rate rose 4 cents to $2.84 a mile while the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio slipped from 11.7 to 10.8. Late-season harvests in northern markets are driving demand for temperature-controlled equipment as well as flatbeds and vans, depending on the commodity.

Nearly 85% of the country’s annual apple and pear harvest comes from Washington State and Oregon and according the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, truckload carriers in the two states can expect to move around 3,100 loads per week in November, peaking at almost 4,000 loads per week by January. Reefer spot rates in the Pendleton, Oregon, market averaged $2.98 a mile excluding fuel, a 10-cent increase week over week as load post volumes continue to climb in the area (up 24% month-over-month).

Many of these loads are headed to California. The average rate to Stockton hit a 12-month high at $2.64 a mile last week, while the rate to Los Angeles averaged an all-time high of $2.58 a mile.

Line-haul rates exclude a fuel surcharge. The national average price of diesel was $3.71 per gallon last week, a seven-year high.