Capacity Crunch, Fuel Costs Push Spot Freight Rates Higher

US spot truckload freight hit new highs in January, nearly $1 a mile higher than a year ago, according to DAT Freight & Analytics.

Evan as the number of loads moved dropped throughout the month, spot market rates for dry van and refrigerated freight rose for the eighth straight month, nearly $1 higher than the national average a year ago, according to DAT.

Spot truckload rates are negotiated on a per-load basis and paid to the carrier by a freight broker. DAT’s rate analysis is based on $116 billion in annualized freight transactions.

The van rate averaged $3.11 per mile in January, an 11-cent increase over December. The average reefer rate was $3.59 per mile, up 12 cents month over month.

In Canada, Loadlink Technologies recently reported Canada’s spot market surged 154% year over year, marking the best January on record by an additional 14%. Shipments from Canada to the U.S. were nearly three times higher than a year ago.

Meanwhile capacity remains extremely tight, with just 0.93 trucks posted per load.

“Combining the current truck shortage with the huge surge in loads only compounds the capacity constraints,” says Claudia Milicevic, president of “Truck-to-load ratios are even lower than the record low capacity crunch that temporarily ensued following the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate in the U.S. close to five years ago.”

Cross-border loads into the U.S. jumped 281% year over year, while inbound cross-border loads were up 116%.

Domestic freight volumes remained strong, up 166% year over year. The truck-to-load ratio was down 23% from December’s 1.21, and 64% lower year over year when there were 2.57 trucks posted per load.

The shortage of trucks is particularly felt in the reefer segment, Loadlink reports, with the truck-to-load ratio falling from 0.9 in the first half of January to 0.57 in the second half – a decrease of 36%.

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