The DAT North American Freight Index fell 2.5% in April 2017 but volume remained above seasonal norms, signaling a solid start to the second quarter of 2017, reported DAT Solutions, which operates an on-demand exchange for spot truckload freight. Freight volumes increased 60% compared with April 2016.

Average spot truckload rates rose in April for refrigerated, vans and flatbed freight, on both a month-over-month and year-over-year basis.

“It’s not unusual for truckload freight activity to give ground in April, but national average load-to-truck ratios and rates last month were higher than expected,” said Mark Montague, DAT industry pricing analyst.

While van demand declined 4.5% from March, the national average load-to-truck ratio was up 8% month over month, and surged 127% year over year. The load-to-truck ratio measures the number of available loads for each truck posted on the DAT Network of load boards, and is an indicator of the balance between capacity and demand for freight services. That balance favored carriers in April, as indicated by a gain in the national average spot rate of $1.67 per mile for vans, up 4 cents from March and up 17 cents over April 2016, including fuel surcharges.

The spot reefer freight market experienced a similar trend. Reefer demand dropped 5.4% from March, but demand was 87% higher year over year. The load-to-truck ratio advanced for reefers, and so did truckload rates. At $1.94 per mile, the average spot reefer rate was 7 cents higher than March and 14 cents higher year over year.

In the flatbed segment, the national average rate increased 4 cents to $2.07 per mile compared with March and was 17 cents higher year over year. Flatbed demand has been robust, and load-to-truck ratios are elevated in 2017 to date, but freight volume was unchanged (down 0.3%) from March, and up 43 percent versus April 2016. Flatbed demand typically peaks in May and June, so demand could continue to increase this year, Montague said.

Founded in 1978, DAT Solutions is a wholly owned subsidiary of Roper Technologies.

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