Spot market shows mixed signals in April with some positive themes mixed in, reports DAT

While the index was off 2.5 percent in April, DAT said volume stayed ahead of seasonal norms in kicking off the second quarter, coupled with freight volumes seeing a 60 percent annual gain. The firm added that average spot truckload rates for vans, reefer (refrigerated) and flatbed freight saw sequential and annual gains in April.

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Spot market activity was mostly positive in April, according to the most recent edition of the DAT North American Freight Index, which was recently released by DAT, a subsidiary of Roper Industries, and operator of the largest on-demand exchange for spot truckload freight.

While the index was off 2.5 percent in April, DAT said volume stayed ahead of seasonal norms in kicking off the second quarter, coupled with freight volumes seeing a 60 percent annual gain. The firm added that average spot truckload rates for vans, reefer (refrigerated) and flatbed freight saw sequential and annual gains in April.

"It's not unusual for truckload freight activity to give ground in April, but national average load-to-truck ratios and rates last month were higher than expected," said Mark Montague, DAT industry pricing analyst, in a statement.

For rates and demand in April, DAT reported the following:

  • -van demand fell 4.5 percent from March to April, while the national average load-to-truck ratio (which DAT defines as the number of available loads for each truck posted on the DAT network of load boards and an indicator of the balance between capacity and demand for freight services, rose 8 percent for the same period and 127 percent annually;
  • -the national average spot rate for vans at $1.67 rose 4 cents over March and 17 cents over April 2016, including fuel surcharges;
  • -spot reefer freight demand was off 5.4 percent compared to March but rose 87 percent annually, and the national average spot reefer rate was up 7 cents over March at $1.94 per mile and up 14 cents annually; and
  • -flatbed’s average rate was up 4 cents from March to April at $2.07 and up 17 cents annually, with freight volume off 0.3 percent compared to March and up 43 percent annually, with DAT noting that flatbed demand often peaks in May and June and could lead to demand increasing

While things are getting better in the market, Montague made it clear in a recent interview with LM that the growth is not accelerating at such a quick clip that every stakeholder is unanimously on board with the improvement. And he explained that while there may be a “little bit less” capacity out there, there is still “sufficient” capacity in most situations and regions of the U.S.

On a recent call with investment firm Stifel, Montague said that looking ahead as 2017 and 2018 evolve, there may be some truckload capacity exiting the market thanks to various factors, including the full implementation of the federally mandated electronic logging devices, or ELDs, in December of 2017. While estimates vary, he said that there could easily be a loss of between 3% and 10% of overall truckload capacity as the carriers currently falsifying their driver hours-of-service logs will generally no longer be permitted to do so.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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Article Topics

DAT · spot market · Trucking · All Topics
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