Van rates dropped 3¢ per mile as a national average last week, which is not the best news. However, the average rate for December is still higher than any other month in 2016. Also, rates might rise again in the final days of the year, as shippers move their last-minute freight before they literally close the book on 2016.
Capacity could tighten up during the next ten days, too. Lots of people like to take time off during the week after Christmas, to spend time with their families while the kids are out of school. Trucking company employees, including drivers, are no different, so there will probably be fewer trucks available to deliver those end-of-year loads.
Load-to-truck ratios are highest for vans in the darker red areas on the Hot States Map, above.
Spot Market Peak Shifts to December, from June
For many years, spot market van rates and volume would peak in June. It was the height of the produce season in California and elsewhere, and reefers were busiest, so not as many trucks were available to haul van freight. There would be a second, smaller bump in October, as retail freight began to move from seaports to distribution centers. And that was it. The rest of the year was typically pretty quiet.
More recently, the prolonged drought in California has drained some of the excitement from June freight, and e-commerce has extended the holiday freight season through mid-December or later. The June and October peaks are flatter, and December has become the hottest month for van freight.
Chicago is Hot for Vans
The Midwest is heating up again for van freight. More loads moved out of Chicago, and Columbus had fewer loads than the previous week, but rates were up on the biggest lanes out of both markets. That was a welcome change. Los Angeles also moved more loads, but rates declined. Volume improvements in Memphis yielded a mixed result on rates.
Fewer Loads in Denver and Seattle
Denver and Seattle lost a lot of momentum last week, after a two- or three-week surge, and the average outbound rate dropped about 10¢ per mile for both markets. That's still higher than November, but not great for truckers.