Logistics Weekly

DAT Weekly Trendlines Report – Spot Van Freight Remains Healthy as Rates Drop Seasonally

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Week Ending Feb. 2, 2019

Spot market rates declined seasonally in January, but volumes remain strong for van freight. Looking at loads that moved in January, one observed three big trends:

1. Volumes held steady last month, at or slightly above January 2018 levels, with a 5.8 percent increase in the most recent week. The uptick was led by strong volumes out of two powerhouse markets: Atlanta and Los Angeles.

2. Winter conditions do have an impact on freight rates. Chicago outbound rates rose 5.6 percent last week with no increase in volumes. That's a huge jump for the winter, and it was due largely to capacity shortfalls during the brief but intense onslaught of snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures.

3. Volume changes often precede spot rate adjustments, and the delay can take up to a week. Brokers may be aware of changes in demand immediately, but the trucking community may not detect the shift in market conditions for two or three days. (The exception is refrigerated produce, where truckers change their pricing within hours.)

We expected a drop in volumes due to the Polar Vortex impact, but instead, warm-weather markets picked up the slack by sharply increasing freight shipments. With a strong February thaw, expect rates to rise from a slow start to a surge in demand next week, as stores and other businesses restock and pent-up demand is released into the supply chain. We’ll know more in the next few days.

Meanwhile, flatbed rates held up better than van and reefer rates in January. The flatbed market bottomed out in November, along with oil prices. Oil is now on the rebound and the flatbed market is poised for a strong spring.

January saw a strong rebound in the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), indicating continued growth in the manufacturing sector. If you follow flatbed rate trends in DAT RateView, that shouldn't be a huge surprise, because the industrial economy and flatbed freight are closely correlated.


Trucks weren’t available when an Arctic cold wave hit the Midwest and Northeastern states last week. Demand held steady, but the absence of equipment drove load-to-truck ratios up in much of the affected area. Expect a rush of pent-up demand to drive rates up this week, as weather and road conditions return to normal.

For more spot market freight trends, visit www.dat.com/trendlines.



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