At some point, U.S. consumers may stay away from stores and other public places due to coronavirus fears, but for now they're shopping like crazy. It could be a busy spring for dry vans, as those inventories are being replenished continuously.
Van carriers may be glad to see February recede in the rearview, as rates and volume slid lower in a typical winter slump. As of last week, rates seemed to have hit a plateau, and truckload volumes were picking up. The much-anticipated spring recovery may be delayed or canceled, however, due to the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on supply chains worldwide.
February can be a tough month for transportation companies. Rates on many lanes hit their lowest points of the year during this stretch of winter, and prices were definitely trending downward to close January.
Van rates slipped below December levels after an unexpected surge in the first half of January. The national average rate dropped another penny to $1.93 per mile for vans last week, which is one cent below the December average but higher than any other month since December 2018.
Reefer rates rose everywhere in the first week of January, with the biggest increases on lanes that are associated with importing fresh produce. Volumes declined compared to the holiday rush, but the change was not dramatic.
The national average van rate hit $1.98 for dry vans last week. That's 4¢ per mile above the December average and higher than any monthly rate since 2018. Freight volume rose on half of the top 100 van lanes, compared to the previous week. Volumes were much lower than in the run-up to Christmas, however.