2 Signs That the Freight Recession Really Is Over

Last week, the national load-to-truck ratio for vans was the highest it’s been since March 2014. That was back when demand for trucks skyrocketed because extreme winter weather caused massive disruption to supply chains. Last week was also the second week in a row when rates rose on more than 70 of the top 100 van lanes. Together, the ratio and rates offer the strongest evidence yet that the freight recession is over.

Rates could continue to rise. This week, the annual Roadcheck inspection blitz is happening all across the country, and as we’ve seen in years past, that usually pushes spot market prices higher. And strong projections for California produce shipments should make for a busy June.

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

Volumes were strong after Memorial Day, particularly in Atlanta and Los Angeles. Higher prices out of Memphis and Columbus tell us that retail traffic is moving, and higher rates out of Dallas and Seattle show us that the improvement is far-reaching.

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


  • The biggest spike was on the lane from Charlotte to Buffalo, which jumped up 44¢ to an average of $2.74/mile
  • Chicago to Buffalo also rose 18¢ to $2.33/mile
  • Seattle to Spokane was up 20¢ to $2.70/mile

We got some improvement on some backhaul lanes too, where rates are generally higher going in the opposite direction:

  • Buffalo to Columbus rates rose 15¢ to $1.65/mile
  • Cleveland to Chicago also paid 15¢ better at $1.75/mile


Declining lanes were few and far between. Houston to Oklahoma City was down 8¢ to $1.97/mile. Most other declines were only 1¢ or 2¢ per mile.

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

Reefer freight is in transition. Markets that were previously hot, like Florida, are slowing down. That’s expected around this time of year. Meanwhile, the bulk of California freight has yet to hit the spot market. Projections for Central California produce are still strong for June, so we’re keeping an eye on the Fresno market, but those shipping gaps meant that rates didn’t continue their upward trend on many of the top reefer lanes. Demand started to pick up again at the end of the week, though, and Roadcheck will be a factor this week as well.


  • Asparagus, beans, and peas are shipping out of Western Michigan, and reefer rates on the lane from Grand Rapids to Philadelphia jumped up 47¢ to $3.17/mile
  • Grand Rapids to Cleveland also rose 24¢ to $3.35/mile
  • Rates slipped in Ontario, CA, but the northern part of the Golden State is in play. The lane from Sacramento to Denver paid 24¢ better on average, at $2.63/mile
  • Beef and other meats shipping out of Dallas pushed rates up 20¢ on the lane to Columbus. That paid $2.19/mile on average last week

Texas is still ahead of California for reefer load availability, but the gap is narrowing.


  • Crop production is rising out of the Northwest, so reefer rates fell on inbound lanes like Sacramento to Portland, OR. Those rates fell 30¢ to an average of $2.72/mile
  • Cross-border volumes were down in Nogales, AZ, and the lane to Dallas tumbled after a big spike in the previous week. It was back down to $2.48/mile

Peak season in Florida has ended, so outbound reefer rates are starting their descent. These will drop more in the coming weeks:

  • Lakeland to Atlanta lost 36¢ at $1.95/mile, still modestly high
  • Miami to Elizabeth, NJ, fell 27¢ to $2.10/mile

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