Truckload capacity on the spot market was already tight before Christmas, but the load-to-truck ratio for dry van freight went through the roof to close the year. The national average for the week was 12.3 van loads per truck, breaking the record set the week before. The national average van rate for December was $2.11 per mile, the highest in three and a half years.

Last week’s higher prices were less about higher volumes, though. Load counts on the top 100 van lanes were down, even when you consider the shortened work week due to the holiday. Still, rates rose on 76 of those lanes, so the higher prices were a result of tighter capacity and perhaps the urgency to move loads before the end of the year. This might also be the first time we've ever posted a Hot States Map where every state was dark red.


Winter weather also likely played a role, keeping volumes down but also pushing rates higher in the Northeast and Midwest, since it was more difficult for trucks to operate in those regions. Not all the gains were weather-related, though. The average outbound rate in Dallas made another big jump last week, up 10%. Rates also rose 5% out of Los Angeles.

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

Rising Lanes

Winter weather likely affected these lanes:

  •  The average van rate on the lane from Chicago to Detroit rose 42¢ to $3.97/mile
  • Buffalo to Columbus was up 44¢ at $2.51/mile
  • Philadelphia to Boston rose 41¢ at $4.18/mile – rates on this lane are typically higher than most to account for traffic, tolls, and the likely deadhead miles accrued on the return trip – but $4.18/mile is still really high 

Some big increases farther West:

  • Dallas to Denver added 36¢ to $2.79/mile on average
  • Los Angeles to Seattle rose 31¢ to $3.18/mile

In general, rates were down out of Seattle because of declines on high-volume lanes going to California, but a couple of lower-volume lanes were up big: 

  • Seattle to Salt Lake City gained 36¢ to $2.76/mile
  • Seattle to Eugene, OR, surged 79¢ to $3.63 – way above what this lane usually pays

Falling Lanes

Aside from the two lanes we just mentioned, Seattle was the only market where the average rate fell last week. Prices there fell 11% in December, but those rates are coming down from what's usually considered well above normal for this time of year, so these could be adjustments back down to what’s typical for that market. 

Otherwise, there weren’t many big declines. And of the lanes that did have lower rates, it was generally because they were the reverse direction of a stronger lane that had prices go up.

A couple mid-tier lanes associated with retail traffic fell post-Christmas:

  • Columbus to Buffalo lost 36¢ to $3.20/mile
  • Memphis to Columbus was down 17¢ to an average of $2.26/mile

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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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