Freight Rates Were Mostly Neutral Ahead of Winter Storm

A blizzard has left much of the East Coast buried under snow. That’ll no doubt affect freight movements, with trucks banned from some highways in the Northeast while Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Virginia declare states of emergency. There was more activity on DAT load boards at the end of week last week, with shippers wanting to get shipments made before the storm left them stuck.

That led to a mixed bag, as far as a Rate Trend of the Week goes. Some key southern markets for van were up, while van markets in the Midwest and L.A. lost momentum. On the top 100 van lanes, rates rose on a majority of them, but it was balanced out by the lanes that declined. Spot market volumes remain strong, though, and if the winter storm leads to tighter capacity, we could be seeing some higher rates soon.

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for vans in the darker red areas on the Hot States Map, above.

Charlotte joined Atlanta as an early leader ahead of the spring freight season, but the story for the past few weeks has been Houston. There have been major investments in natural gas facilities all along the Gulf Coast, which has contributed to a big uptick in activity in the Houston market. That includes van freight, but it’s especially true for flatbed.

Up until recently, most fracking involved flaring off the natural gas, since a lot of companies felt the price for natural gas was too low to spend the extra effort to refine it. That’s changed with the new investments, and it has the potential to create big shifts in freight trends. It’s something that’s been in the works for years, and we’re definitely going to keep tracking it to see how it plays out on the spot market.

All rates below include fuel surcharges and are averages based on real transactions between brokers and carriers.


  • The average van rate from Houston to New Orleans was up 10¢ to $2.09/mile
  • Chicago and Stockton aren’t exactly robust right now, but a couple lanes out of each market had higher rates
  • Chicago to Buffalo rose 13¢ to an average of $2.30/mile
  • Chicago to Los Angeles is generally a low-priced lane, but it rose 9¢ at $1.26/mile to compensate a bit for the weaker-than-normal market in L.A.
  • The Pacific Northwest also slumped last week, which meant inbound rates went up on some northbound lanes out of Stockton: The lane to Seattle was up to $2.13/mile


Only a couple of sharp drops, and they were on relatively low volume lanes.

  • The lane from Seattle to Salt Lake City was an example of the weaker Northwest markets and fell 11¢ at $1.52/mile
  • Denver to Chicago dropped extremely low, just $0.93/mile on average.

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for reefers in the darker blue areas on the Hot States Map, above.

Reefer freight has had a rough winter, but things have started to turn around in the past couple of weeks. Rates on most of the major lanes rose, even though the national average was down. Load counts were up just slightly as a whole, but several major markets saw volumes rise by double-digit percentage points. That should start to lead to fewer reefer trucks competing for van loads.

California continued to struggle to get crops planted after winter weather woes, but there were more reefer loads moving out of Los Angeles. Texas is still the hot state for reefer loads on DAT load boards, though.

Three of the top 5 markets for reefer load posts are in Texas: 1) Atlanta, 2) McAllen, TX, 3) Houston, 4) Elizabeth, NJ, and 5) Dallas


McAllen and Nogales, AZ, are both near the Mexican border. Nogales had the bigger increase in volume, but McAllen rates made the biggest jumps:

  • McAllen to Atlanta was up 24¢ to $2.12/mile
  • McAllen to Elizabeth rose 18¢ to $2.09/mile
  • McAllen to Chicago also gained ▲16¢ at an average of $1.97/mile
  • The biggest increase was Miami to Elizabeth, which jumped up ▲27¢ to $1.84/mile – weather will play a role on this lane this week
  • Green Bay also had a big jump in volumes, and reefer rates on the lane to Minneapolis were up 21¢ to $2.19/mile


Not too many. Grand Rapids to Philadelphia had the biggest drop, down 42¢ to $2.46/mile

The rest of the noteworthy declines were all about Denver:

  • Denver to Houston fell 23¢ to $1.35/mile
  • Denver to Ontario, CA, was down 20¢ to just $1.27/mile
  • Even the inbound lane from Fresno to Denver fell 23¢ to $1.85/mile

Find loads, trucks and lane-by-lane rate information in the DAT Power load board, including rates from DAT RateView.