Holiday sales, port congestion keep pressure on spot truck rates

Holiday sales, port congestion keep pressure on spot truck rates

Retailers may have slashed prices for Black Friday, but truck pricing kept moving in the opposite direction. Spot truckload rates for dry van tractor trailers rose 2 cents per mile on average in the run-up to Thanksgiving and major holiday sales event the next day.

In the week that ended Nov. 29, van spot rates were up 1 percent week-over-week, 2 percent month-to-month and 9.6 percent from November 2013, according to DAT Solutions. The load matching company’s national average dry van spot rate that week rose to $2.05 per mile.

The highest spot truckload spot rates were in the Western U.S., where congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continued to snarl inland supply chains and drive up costs. Spot rates from L.A. rose 13 cents on average in the Nov. 29 week, DAT Solutions said.

Outbound dry van spot rates from Stockton, California rose 7 cents, and from Seattle, 5 cents, according to DAT. Rates in the L.A. to Phoenix lane averaged $3.30 per mile. In the Midwest, per mile rates from Chicago climbed 15 cents during the Thanksgiving holiday week.

Dry van spot rates from Buffalo rocketed 30 cents as trucks finally broke free from the snow, DAT said. Spot rates from Philadelphia were up 13 cents as well. The Philadelphia to Boston lane was the highest-priced spot market lane in the Northeast, at $3.80 per mile.

Although nationally the amount of freight moving on DAT load boards declined 10 percent, the number of trucks available for spot freight dropped 26 percent, meaning there were 4.4 loads available for every truck on the load boards. The November load-to-truck ratio was 3.5.

That 10 percent decline is seasonal and is usually much steeper, DAT Solutions said. Demand was high in the Northeast, Midwest and in states such as Nevada, which has inland staging points for freight entering the country at the congested West Coast ports.

Spot rates for refrigerated trucks rose as well, with the DAT national average reefer spot market rate climbing 3 cents to $2.37 per mile. Over the course of the month, reefer rates rose 9 cents. Year-over-year, reefer rates were up 34 cents, or 17 percent, DAT said.

Reefer rates were highest in the Midwest, averaging $3.24 per mile. Spot rates out of Chicago climbed 31 cents, with the Chicago to Philadelphia rate hitting $4.29 per mile. The reefer load-to-truck ratio was up 34 percent from October last month, and 25 percent year-over-year.

The national average flatbed spot rate stayed flat from the previous week at $2.31 per mile, and were highest in the Northeast, where the regional average was $3.97 per mile.  Flatbed demand declined seasonally, but remained elevated compared with November 2013.

Spot rates may take a seasonal dip post-holiday, but shippers don’t expect much rate relief in 2015. The majority of U.S. and Canadian shippers surveyed by the Royal Bank of Canada recently said they anticipate truck rate increases of up to 6 percent next year.

 Contact William B. Cassidy at and follow him on Twitter: @wbcassidy_joc