Freight Rates Hold Steady, but Midwest Heats Up

Van and reefer rates were mostly in a holding pattern last week. The national averages for both stayed the same as the previous week: $1.64 per mile for vans, and $1.93 per mile for reefers. This stability held, despite a 1¢ decline in the average fuel surcharge.

Reefer trends will likely have a big influence on van rates in August. If apple harvests are strong, van rates will tend to rise, as fewer reefer trucks compete for van loads. All in all, we’re seeing positive trends as we get closer to the fall freight season.

Lighter colored states have lower load-to-truck ratios, meaning there’s more competition for loads

Most price changes on the top 100 van lanes were slight, but demand on regional lanes boosted load-to-truck ratios in the Northeast. Rates on the lane from Buffalo to Allentown, PA¸ were up 13¢ to an average of $2.59/mile. The Midwest has also been improving, with outbound prices up in both Columbus and Chicago. The lane from Columbus to Memphis was up 22¢, which is a good sign for retail traffic. Almost every major outbound lane from Memphis paid better last week.

On the flip side, prices keep falling in Atlanta and Dallas. Those markets are numbers 1 and 2 for load posts on DAT Load Boards, but they’re also numbers 2 and 3 for truck posts. The extra competition for loads has kept rates from going up.

Lighter colored states have lower load-to-truck ratios, meaning there’s more competition for loads

Demand was up for reefers last week, even though there seems to be plenty of trucks in most locations. Outbound volumes and rates got a boost out of Ontario, CA, and prices surged out of Elizabeth, NJ. Apples have already started rolling out of Grand Rapids, which could lead to higher rates soon.

Florida is in off-season, so if you’re hauling freight into Miami, you’ll need to make your money on the way down. When you’re lucky enough to find a load out, it probably won’t pay much. Prices also tumbled out of Nogales, AZ, near the Mexican border.

Buffalo to Allentown, PA is a great roundtrip, and the average rate per mile is up to $2.20 for vans. Not bad. The length of haul is 674 miles for the roundtrip. That would be great mileage for one-day trip, but you probably can’t do the full 674 in a single day with loading and unloading. If you want to add more loaded miles on that second day, look for a TriHaul.

There are lots of options. For example you could take a load from Buffalo to Allentown, and then take a second load from Allentown to Pittsburgh. Then you get your third load to close the loop from Pittsburgh on a relatively short hop, 219 miles back to Buffalo. You’ll make more than $2,100 instead of the $1,500 that you’d get for a straight round trip. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding loads for those three legs, and the rates are trending up on all three lanes.

Lane-by-lane rate information and TriHaul route recommendations are available in DAT load boards. Rates are based on DAT RateView, with $28 billion in lane rates, updated daily, for 65,000 point-to-point lanes across North America.