Spot Van Rates Tick Up, Reversing Declines

A strong close to the month of August continued into September as spot truckload rates increased during the week ending Sept. 8


A strong close to the month of August continued into September as spot truckload rates increased during the week ending Sept. 8, said DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest network of load boards.

The number of posted van, refrigerated, and flatbed loads from Sept. 2-8, which included Labor Day, fell 7% compared to the previous week while the number of available trucks declined 12%. Declines of 20% are more typical for a shorter workweek.

Hurricane Dorian altered supply chains with rates and volumes rising on many lanes into and out of coastal areas. Because the worst of the storm missed heavily populated areas in the United States, the effects on transportation thankfully were not as severe as originally forecast.

National Average Spot Rates, September 2019 (through Sept. 8)

  • Van: $1.88 per mile, 7 cents higher than the August average
  • Flatbed: $2.21 per mile, 1 cent higher than August
  • Reefer: $2.19 per mile, 5 cents higher than August


Van load counts and load-to-truck ratios have steadily increased over the past few weeks. Rates tend to rise when the load-to-truck ratio exceeds 2.5, and the ratio peaked at 3.5 last week before settling to an average of 2.7.

Indeed, the spot van rate is currently equal to February 2018 levels after nearly seven month of declines, and rates on 68 of DAT’s Top 100 biggest van lanes by volume were higher compared to the previous week.

Atlanta ($2.16 per mile, up 5 cents), Charlotte ($2.10 per mile, up 6 cents), and Philadelphia ($1.83 per mile, up 6 cents) paced rising markets as shippers moved goods ahead of the weather last week. Generally, rates increased on lanes moving toward the path of the storm:

  • Charlotte to Lakeland, Florida: $2.37 per mile, up 19 cents
  • Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Richmond, Virginia: $2.58 per mile, up 15 cents
  • Philadelphia to Charlotte: $1.68 per mile, up 15 cents


The national reefer load-to-truck ratio averaged 5.0 last week, a half-point better than the August average. California and Michigan harvests joined with supply chain shifts to boost demand for reefers. Leading markets:

  • Grand Rapids, Michigan: $3.66 per mile, up 26 cents
  • Sacramento: $2.76 per mile, up 6 cents
  • Atlanta: $2.60 per mile, up 10 cents
  • Elizabeth, New Jersey: $1.94 per mile, up 7 cents

Other markets saw higher levels of freight for a holiday-shortened week, including Chicago; McAllen, Texas; and Stockton, California, part of the Sacramento market. Elizabeth to Boston saw the average rate rise 42 cents to $4.36 per mile as the possibility of Dorian hitting New England late in the week fueled demand.


  • Spot reefer rates are up by at least 1% in two consecutive weeks.
  • Western Michigan is in apple season, with rates and volumes rising. Hot ZIP codes for freight: 490XX and 491XX (Kalamazoo, Battle Creek); 494XX (Muskegon); and 492XX (Jackson).
  • It bears repeating that if you have resources to offer during hurricane recovery efforts, consider the American Logistics Aid Network

DAT Trendlines is a weekly snapshot of month-to-date national average rates from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends.