Spot load postings down about 9% last week, rates slide by widest mark this year

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Updated Apr 22, 2022

Data from Truckstop.com and FTR Transportation Intelligence for the week ending April 15 show that the dry van segment saw its largest decline in spot rates this year, but the refrigerated segment saw its first increase in spot rates after falling for nine consecutive weeks.

Dry van rates are down nearly 56 cents from record levels at the end of 2021. Even with an increase in the latest week, refrigerated rates are down about 94 cents from the record at the end of December. Flatbed rates were down slightly for the first time since mid-January. Although total rates are still about 10% ahead of the same 2021 week, if an imputed fuel surcharge that generally is not paid in spot transactions is excluded, rates are down 1%. While that negative comparison is small, it is the first negative year-over-year comparison since June 2020. However, dry van and refrigerated rates excluding surcharges are more negative while flatbed rates excluding surcharges are still up more than 4% year over year.

[Related: Contract rates set record while spot rates slide]

Weekly average spot rates reported in DAT RateView fell again last week, continuing a downward trend. Van freight averaged $2.83 a mile last week, down 6 cents from the week before. Reefers averaged $3.12 a mile, down 5 cents from the previous week. The flatbed rate fell 3 cents to an average of $3.31 a mile – the first decline in four weeks. Excluding fuel, weekly spot van and reefer line-haul rates are below year-ago averages with van at $2.19 per mile, down 7 cents year-over-year and reefer at $2.50 per mile, down 6 cents year-over-year. The flatbed rate was $2.68 per mile excluding fuel, 13 cents higher year-over-year. Line-haul rates for all three equipment types are also above 2018 spot prices, when vans averaged $1.86 a mile; reefers, $2.10 a mile; and flatbeds, $2.28 a mile.

A 9% decrease in total load postings to Truckstop.com was the largest drop of the year on the platform. Volume was about 29% below the same week in 2021 but about 69% above the five-year average for the week. Load availability was slightly higher on the West Coast but down in all other regions.

South Carolina Ports Authority has been a beneficiary of the shift of container imports from West Coast ports to those on the eastern seaboard. According to DAT, South Carolina ports including Charleston reported record container traffic for the 13th consecutive month, prompting Sunday hours for motor carriers and selective term leasing of the port’s new chassis.There is plenty of available dry van capacity in the market as spot rates decline. The average outbound rate from Charleston fell 4 cents to $3.09 a mile last week and is down 21 cents over the last month. Capacity on the popular short-haul lane west to Atlanta also loosened, with rates dropping by 38 cents since March to an average of $3.57 a mile, almost exactly where they were this time last year. 

Similar to Truckstop.com, the total number of loads posted to the DAT One load board network fell 8.5% during the week ending April 16. Load posts dropped for all three equipment types: the number of van loads on the network was down 12% week over week; reefer loads also fell 12%; and the flatbed load count was down 6%. The number of loads on the network last week was almost equal to the number of loads posted during the same week in 2018, considered a boom year for spot freight, while the supply of capacity was almost equal to the same week in 2019, a “down” year. 

Truck postings fell 7.1%, and Truckstop.com’s Market Demand Index fell to 102.2, which is its lowest level since December 2020.

The total number of trucks on the DAT network last week slipped 0.8%, with van equipment posts down 0.5%; reefer trucks 2.6% lower; and flatbed equipment posts down 0.6%. The national average load-to-truck ratios reflected lower demand for trucks. Van load-to-truck ratio was 3.0 as a national average, down from 3.4 the previous week, according to DAT. Reefer load-to-truck ratio was 5.9, down from 6.6. Flatbed load-to-truck ratio was 58.7, down from 63.0.