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Despite reefer freight volume’s climb, spot market exhibits late-summer lull

Spot market freight availability dropped for the second straight month in August 2018 due mostly to a decline in shipper demand for flatbed equipment, according to the DAT North American Freight Index, a monthly indicator of transportation trends.

A seasonal lull in searches for available dry van trailers, the most common equipment type on the spot truckload market, also contributed to the late-summer slump.

Refrigerated volume rose to near-peak levels, however.

“August was the strongest month this year for the number of loads that moved on the spot market, according to the DAT RateView database,” said DAT pricing analyst Mark Montague. “However, the volume of loads posted to the DAT load board marketplace actually decreased because 3PLs and freight brokers were able to find trucks more efficiently.”

The year-over-year decline in load posting activity is likely to persist through September. Spot market demand in September 2017 was inflated by massive supply chain disruptions caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

A strong holiday freight season in 2018 should again boost spot market demand compared with 2017 levels.

National average spot market rates in August slipped a few cents lower than July but remained 20% above August 2017 averages for all equipment types.

The average van rate fell 13 cents to $2.14 per mile due to an increase in available capacity, while the flatbed rate slid 12 cents to $2.64 per mile on declining energy and construction activity. The rate for reefer equipment dropped 10 cents to $2.49 per mile in August, as produce harvests entered a seasonal transition.

The average spot van rate was 35 cents per mile higher year over year. The flatbed rate was up 46 cents, and reefers were 41 cents higher.

Referenced rates are the averages by equipment type, based on $57 billion of actual transactions, as recorded in DAT RateView. Reference rates per mile include fuel surcharges, but not accessorials or other fees. The DAT Freight Index reflects load posting volume on the DAT network of load boards, and 100 on the Index represents the average monthly volume in the year 2000. Additional trends and analysis are available at DAT Trendlines.

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