Spot Market Freight Volume, Rates Continue Falling

PORTLAND, OR — Following a common seasonal pattern, spot market freight volume declined 8.8 percent month-over-month in August, according to the DAT North American Freight Index that’s based on DAT Solutions‘ network of load boards in Canada and the U.S.

The index has declined from July to August in four of the past ten years, while this year’s fall freight season, which sometimes begins in mid-August, appears to be starting a few weeks later, the company reported.

By equipment type, van freight levels dropped 3.7 percent month-over- month, refrigerated freight edged down 0.4 percent, and flatbeds were off 18 percent, for an overall decline of 8.8 percent compared to July. 

The company added that early indications suggest improving van and reefer freight availability in September.

Compared to the extraordinary high volume of 2014, August freight volume was down 44 percent. Volume for August also fell below same-month totals for the past four years, but freight availability remained strong compared to the previous five-year period, from 2005 through 2010, which included an economic recession in the U.S. 

Meantime, linehaul rates on the spot market followed the month-over-month volume trends by equipment type, declining 1.3 percent for vans, 2.7 percent for reefers, and 2.2 percent for flatbeds.

However, the average total rate paid to carriers declined more steeply, due to lower diesel prices that yielded a 14 percent reduction in the fuel surcharge compared to July. Carriers are typically paid a sum of the line haul rate and the fuel surcharge, on a per-mile basis. With fuel included, the total rate declined 3.3 percent for both vans and flatbeds, and fell 4.2 percent for reefers.

Comparing freight volume to August 2014 by equipment type, year-over-year, vans declined 35 percent, reefers were down 29 percent, and flatbeds dropped 57 percent.

Line haul rates declined only 1.3 percent for vans, while reefer rates dipped 1.1 percent and flatbeds lost 5.8 percent compared to August 2014, but total rates declined by 11 to 15 percent, due to a 49 percent decline in the fuel surcharge over the year, according to DAT.

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