Atlanta was the hottest place to find spot truckload freight in 2016, according to DAT Solutions, which operates an on-demand freight exchange for spot market truckload freight. A spot load is transactional freight not under contract that a shipper or broker makes available on the DAT network of load boards.

Atlanta topped the list as the market with the most available spot van and refrigerated loads for the second consecutive year.

Mark Montague, transportation analyst for DAT, characterized Atlanta as a freight “low-point,” meaning its location gives it 2-day access to the East Coast and Florida and Southeast markets and so serves as convenient staging area.

“Atlanta is more than a regional trucking hub. It’s a railroad hub and also has access to the ocean by way of Savannah, Charleston, and some of the other Atlantic sea ports. And the fact the Florida is so volatile gives lots of weight to Atlanta as an origin. Spot markets depend on the unusual, on disruption, on short lead times,” Montague tells American Trucker. “If I ship truckload freight across the U.S., and I can only warehouse product in one location, supply chain studies will find Atlanta or Nashville as being the low cost point. You’ve got low-cost labor and the weather’s favorable, along with the interstate highway network.”

Little Rock, AR, repeated as the No. 1 market for flatbed freight posts. The flatbed list also includes nearby Shreveport, LA, and Jackson, MS, along with three locations in Alabama.

“There’s a lot of industry in that area, and there’s a perpetual shortage of flatbed—which leads brokers to become very creative in how they search out equipment, posting, and so on,” Montague says.

Looking ahead, he notes that the latest Baker Hughes rig count shows drilling activity has increased in the last couple of months, and is up significantly from early 2016.

“Oil exploration and fracking all fell of the cliff when the price of oil collapsed, but with the prospect that oil prices could be at $60 per barrel this year means we could have more production—and of course, the Trump administration is pro-development,” Montague says. “The spot market conditions are better than they were a year ago, and we go deeper into 2017, the market will continue to beat last year’s numbers and have a more positive story because of the momentum.”

Specifically, the Houston spot market is heating up, and the lane to the Williston jumped 34 cents a mile last week for flatbed, indicating oil field equipment being moved into position.

California can also look forward to a post-drought bumper crop of produce following a good spring planting season, he noted.

The 2016 rankings are based on an analysis of more than 100 million annual freight matches and a database of $33 billion of market transactions on the DAT network load boards.

Because spot freight is unscheduled freight, it is seen as a dynamic economic indicator, DAT notes. Below are the top 10 cities for outbound truckload freight by equipment type in 2016:

Van loads:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Houston
  3. Chicago
  4. Dallas
  5. Charlotte
  6. Memphis
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Cleveland
  9. Elizabeth, NJ
  10. Indianapolis

Refrigerated loads:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Chicago
  3. Elizabeth, NJ
  4. Dallas
  5. Twin Falls, ID
  6. Charlotte
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Grand Rapids, MI
  9. Joliet, IL
  10. Philadelphia

Flatbed loads:

  1. Little Rock, AR
  2. Shreveport, LA
  3. Mobile, AL
  4. Jackson, MS
  5. Cleveland
  6. Decatur, IL
  7. Houston
  8. Montgomery, AL.
  9. Birmingham, AL
  10. Spokane