Mid-month data on spot market rates for refrigerated trucks, vans and flatbeds

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The number of available on-time road freight loads fell 8% while truck positions jumped more than 11% in the week ending Nov. 15, said DAT Freight & Analytics, which operates the network of DAT loading panels.

The load-to-truck ratios of vans, refrigerated goods and flatbed trucks have each dropped double-digit, although loads of fresh and frozen foods are plentiful in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.

The national average ratio of vans was 4.2, down from 5.2 the previous week, while the refrigeration ratio was 9.8, down from 11.75. The flatbed load-to-truck ratio fell from 34.4 to 28.5.

This did not translate into a rate cut immediately.

For the month of November so far, as shown, only platform loads were down from October highs.

From one week to the next, the prices of vans and refrigerators improved compared to the previous week, on a national average:
**Van: $ 2.45 per mile, up 1%
**Fridge : $ 2.67 per mile, up 3.6%
**Flat : $ 2.43 per mile, virtually unchanged week to week

Trends to watch

The turkey trot | Of DAT’s 72 largest lanes for refrigerated freight, the average spot rate was higher on 51 lanes, 17 lanes showed no significant change, and only four lanes were lower. Volume on these routes increased 7.4% from the previous week on the strength of food and beverage freight, which is up 95% year-over-year.

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, capacity tends to tighten, especially in Midwestern markets where there is a high concentration of turkey farms, food sources, and processing plants.

Turkey sales (whole birds and pieces) are on the rise, with buyers purchasing turkey four times more often this year than in 2019. Compared to the national average rate for reefer containers, rates in the top five producing states of Turkey – North Carolina, Minnesota, Arkansas, Missouri, and Indiana – increased 23 cents per mile last week.

The cargo van moves inward | Outgoing volumes of Los Angeless were down 13% and Ontario, California, down 7% week after week. This is good news because it indicates that the surge in imports that has hampered ports in Southern California and elsewhere on the West Coast is moving inland.

The average spot rate was higher on 42 of DAT’s top 100 traffic lanes by volume. Twenty lanes were neutral and 38 saw their prices drop. In particular, the number of incoming loads at Memphis – a major distribution center for retail products – was up 8% from the previous week.

As the national average van-to-truck ratio declined over the past week, the spot market continues to create opportunities for truckers. Freight volumes are up 67% with 5% fewer trucks loading compared to the same week in 2019.

Door to door sales and flat freight | A good demand signal in the plateau sector is the Fannie Mae Home Buyers Sentiment Index (HPSI). While it edged up to 81.7 in October, the third consecutive month of increases, the IPHP is down 7.1 points year on year. The survey-based report says consumers are more optimistic about the terms of buying and selling a home, but are pessimistic about their personal finances and job prospects.

Flatbed freight continues to cool with volumes down 7% week-on-week in DAT’s top 10 flatbed markets. Volumes of Little Rock, Arkansas, the No.1 market, fell 26% week on week.

Nationally, a 7% decrease in flatbed loading bays and a 9% increase in truck bays indicate no upward pressure on rates.


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