Early Snowpocalypse Freezes Truckload Capacity

Early winter storms dumped snow on a number of key freight markets, which puts pressure on capacity. Rates are also affected, as refrigerated (“reefer”) rates are up 7¢ since the end of October, and van rates have added 4¢.

This is an atypically cold and snowy November in the U.S., and some of the hardest-hit areas are freight hubs, featuring multiple interstate highways, rail lines and numerous distribution centers. Those cities, from west to east, include Denver, Fargo, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, and Cleveland. Pity the truckers who had to move freight in or out of Buffalo in recent weeks, when the city was buried under seven feet of snow. More of the white stuff is headed to the East Coast over Thanksgiving weekend, as well. Let’s hope the trucks have already come and gone by then.

Reefers are in especially high demand. That’s because reefers have the extra insulation and temperature-controlled environment to protect sensitive cargo from freezing. Across the northern states, load volume is atypically high for outbound reefers. At the same time, pre-holiday demand is adding to demand pressure in meat and produce packing areas. Reefer demand has continued to grow throughout November with actual volumes up 11% in the last two weeks and spot market reefer rates up 4.7%.

Dry van freight is also plentiful, but the surge of van demand is coming from the West Coast. Southern California dominates, with freight heading toward the large population centers of the Northeast. Now, in the last full week before Thanksgiving, van volumes are starting to slip, but that may be due partly to weather-related issues. Load posts on DAT Load Boards climbed 21% in the same period, and they are 21% higher than they were at this time last year. The increased demand has boosted rates on the spot market throughout November, and most U.S. freight markets are experiencing tight capacity.

To track and predict the impact of inclement weather and increased freight availability on lane rates, I recommend DAT RateView. Contact our award-winning customer service team for more info, or ask for a demo: 800.551.8847 or via this online form.

Trucks at the side of a snowy road near Buffalo, NY, November 19, 2014. (Photo by Lindsay DeDario, Reuters)