Demand on the spot market had been surging as we headed into December, after record-high rates and load-to-truck ratios throughout November.

Last week was a little quieter. The number of loads posted on DAT load boards came down from the previous week’s peak, falling 10% in what could be a lull between holidays. Truck posts rose 12%, which meant it was a little easier for shippers and brokers to find capacity. Still, the spot market is much tighter than it was around this time a year ago (just look at all the dark red in the Hot States Map below), and spot rates are still significantly higher than they were in December of 2016.

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Van rates started to settle a bit last week, though, with prices falling on 59 of the top 100 van lanes, despite the uptick in the national average rate. More trucks were available on those high-traffic lanes, in particular, and rates adjusted accordingly. Prices are still high in many parts of the country, though. 

Most of the big increases last week were out of Denver, where the average outbound rate jumped up 7%. Denver is what we typically refer to as a backhaul market, though, meaning that outbound loads usually pay a lot less than inbound loads. 

All rates below include fuel surcharges and are based on real transactions between brokers and carriers.

Rising Lanes

Increases on these Denver lanes were big enough to balance the declines on inbound rates: 

  • Denver to Chicago was up 10¢, but only averaged $1.16/mile – still, that was enough to offset the 7¢ drop going the other direction, which averaged $2.83/mile
  • Denver to Phoenix rose 19¢ to $1.52/mile
  • One of the few headhaul lanes out of Denver is to Albuquerque, NM, and it gained10¢ to $2.16/mile

Van rates jumped up 15¢ in both directions between Los Angeles and Denver. L.A. to Denver is the headhaul direction, and the average rate rose to $3.34/mile. The total roundtrip averaged $2.37/mile

The biggest increase last week was in the Northeast. The lane from Buffalo to Allentown, PA, climbed 24¢ to $3.81/mile. It's one of the top-paying lanes above 250 miles.

Falling Lanes

Several of the big drops were on lanes that had been paying rates that were well above average for this time of year.

  • Seattle to Spokane, WA, dropped 44¢ to $3.23/mile, which is still high
  • Stockton, CA to Salt Lake City fell another 29¢ to an average of $2.70/mile
  • Load counts were way down on the lane from Columbus to Buffalo, and rates tumbled 75¢ to $3.06/mile

The lane from Allentown to Richmond, VA, fell 29¢ to $2.54/mile, about where it was a month ago.

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Matt Sullivan

Matt Sullivan is the editor of DAT Carrier News. He has more than 10 years of journalism experience.

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