Spot markets soared as 2017 came to an end: DAT

PORTLAND, OR — Spot markets in the United States soared in December, with demand for both dry and refrigerated (reefer) van rates reaching their highest of 2017. The flatbed rate also remained high, matching its yearly peak.

Holiday season retail, e-commerce, and fresh and frozen food demand, propped up an already high availability of truckload freight in December, giving the month a 25% gain over the same month last year, said analysts at DAT Solutions.

Despite a dip of overall freight volumes by 3% from a strong November, other capacity constraints such as a polar vortex in the east and the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate coming into effect in the U.S., meant capacity was tight and shippers and freight brokers paid higher premiums for available trucks.

Van rates averaged US$2.11 in the U.S. – up four cents over month-over-month. Van volumes were up 12% in December over the month before, while truck posts decreased by 14%. That resulted in a load-to-truck ratio that was the highest monthly average ever recorded by DAT, the company said.

Late fall harvests also pushed the reefer load-to-truck ratio up 18%, its highest point since March 2014. The average reefer rate for December was US$2.46 per mile, which was three cents higher than the November average and another all-time high.

Volumes for flatbeds increased by a less-dramatic 2% when compared to November, while the U.S. average rate remained at US$2.33 per mile for the third month in a row.

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