Average U.S. spot rates fell sharply in January even as truckload freight volumes remained high, says DAT Freight and Analytics, which operates an online marketplace for such freight.
Its related Truckload Volume Index – which reflects dry van, reefer, and flatbed loads – dropped 2% on the month but was still up 7.5% year over year.
“Spot market volumes and rates fell from record-setting levels at the end of December and our models predict a continued decline into the second quarter,” said analytics chief Ken Adamo.
“The headwind of Covid-19 is mixing with the tailwinds of vaccine distribution and economic stimulus. There’s still uncertainty about whether consumers will continue to spend, what they’ll buy now, and how networks will respond as e-commerce drives more Final Mile delivery and fulfillment houses move closer to where customers live.”
The van load-to-truck ratio averaged 4.3 in January, down from 4.8 the previous month, meaning there were 4.3 available loads for every available truck on the network. The van ratio was 10.4 % lower in January compared to December, but 95% higher than the ratio in January 2020.
Contract rates are now consistently higher than spot rates for the first time since July.
The U.S. spot van rate averaged $2.36 per mile in January, down 11 cents compared to December and 49 cents higher than January 2020. At US$2.12 per mile, the average linehaul van rate (the total spot rate minus fuel surcharges) fell from end-over-year highs.
Spot reefer volumes fell 3.5 percent month over month. The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio fell to 8.2, five times higher than April’s record low of 1.7 loads per truck. The national average spot reefer rate was US$2.61 per mile, down 7 cents compared to December and 37 cents higher year over year.
The national flatbed load-to-truck ratio averaged 47.9 in January, the highest since the summer of 2018. January flatbed volumes were up 3% compared to December and down 9.5% year over year. The national average spot flatbed rate was US $2.50 per mile, a cent higher than December and 33 cents higher than January 2020.