DAT has reported that during the week ending Feb. 22, the national average spot-market van rate reached a peak of $1.98 per mile. That rate, per DAT Trendlines, a composite of the firm’s network of load boards, was 13% higher compared to the same week in 2013

That dizzying performance, according to DAT, was driven by growing load volume (up 12% that week) as well as a rise in tighter available capacity (up 3.3%) and remains in the company’s estimation “unseasonably high.”

What’s more, that surge in dry-van load volume and available capacity tightening moved the load-to-truck ratio to 5.6-- or 16% higher from the 4.8 recorded for the week before. The firm noted that load-to-truck ratios represent the number of loads posted for every truck posted on its network of load boards.

Meanwhile, overall load volume for reefers climbed 8.5% while capacity fell 1.4%, moving that load-to-truck ratio up 10.1% to 16.0, from 14.5 for the prior week.

DAT added that the national average rate for reefers fell 2 cents (a 0.9% decline) to $2.11 per mile—but pointed out that level is “still high for this time of year.”

Flatbed performance was also impressive. Posted flatbed loads rose 18% last week while flatbed capacity tightened 5.3%. That jumped the load-to-truck ratio 25% to 26.0, from 20.8 the prior week. And the national average rate for flatbeds climbed 2 cents to $2.10 per mile.

According to DAT, van traffic viewed regionally has been affected by weather-related supply chain issues:

  • The average outbound spot rate from Memphis went up10 cents to $2.43 per mile “as some freight started moving east, adding pressure in that market”
  • The rate from Atlanta averaged $2.05 per mile, up 5 cents last week
  • The Midwest markets of Columbus, OH, and Chicago were up 10 cents at $2.30 per mile and down 4 cents to $2.35 per mile, respectively, although “Chicago is still up 7.8% during the last month”
  • The average rate outbound rate from Buffalo dropped 16 cents to $2.04 per mile “as that market continues to seesaw with the weather”

The company suggested that a “notable factor to watch” is the price of fuel—pointing out that the national average diesel fuel price increased another 2.8¢ to $4.02 per gallon, “boosting the national average above $4 per gallon for the first time in 11 months.”