Truckload spot, or non-contract, rates soared to record highs in June, capping a 15-month run of carrier pricing power unmatched since the industry was deregulated in 1980, according to data published today by load board provider DAT Solutions LLC.
Spot van rates hit $2.32 per mile last month, an increase of 52 cents per mile, or 27 percent, from June 2017 levels, DAT said. Spot refrigerated rates rose to $2.69 per mile, a 58 cent per mile increase year-over-year. Flatbed traffic jumped 65 cents per mile year over year, settling at $2.82 per mile at the end of June. All three equipment categories showed double digit cents per mile increases over May, the firm said.
Spot rates continued climbing into the first week of July for van and reefer loads, while flatbed rates were unchanged, DAT said. Load volume and available capacity declined from the prior week, reflecting the abbreviated holiday week and a dramatic volume pull-through at the end of June, according to the firm.
After strong gains in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, spot rates leveled off into the spring only to soar again as summer dawned as capacity stayed tight and demand remained decent. Fleets and owner-operators not wanting to lock in contract rates in a seller's market and migrating more equipment to the spot market to take advantage of the trend.
In an indication of the super-hot spot spot pricing environment, the average nationwide reefer and flatbed rates in June exceeded contract rates, which are generally higher. Spot van rates matched rates for contract carriage, DAT said.Shippers' desire to lock in rates at almost any price is palpable. "While contract rates typically rise after a sustained increase in spot market rates, there is usually a lag of four to six months," said Mark Montague, DAT's pricing analyst. This year, that lag time is reduced to a few weeks."Freight availability on DAT load boards set a record in June, with the firm's North American Freight Index rising 9.3 percent month over month, and 18 percent compared to June 2017.