Fuel Prices Fall, and So Do Rates

Diesel prices dropped 7¢, to $2.11 per gallon last week, the lowest since March 2009, and rates fell, too. Line haul rates are not exceptionally low, but the fuel surcharge was down to only 16¢ per mile, and it’s still falling. Freight brokers usually quote a one-time rate that includes both the line haul and the fuel surcharge, so the declining fuel price has an influence on rates.

The good news is that you’re getting paid today for the jobs you completed 30 days ago, when fuel surcharges were higher. You can put those extra pennies per gallon right in the bank.

The load-to-truck ratio fell from 2.7 to 1.7 loads per truck last week, a more typical result for the slow winter season. The DAT Hot States Map for last week still shows a lull on the West and East Coasts, with more intense demand in the Upper Midwest.

This week’s Hot Markets include a handful of metro areas where solid load volume combined with above-average load-to-truck ratios to make it easier to find a load out:

  • Missoula, MT
  • Rapid City, SD
  • Eau Claire, WI
  • Rock Island, IL
  • Decatur, GA
  • Erie, PA
  • Syracuse, NY

Local conditions can change quickly. so be sure to check on outbound load availability before you go in.

Van rates fell 5¢ to a national average of $1.68 per mile last week, including a 1¢ declined in the fuel surcharge. Rates fell for hauls originating in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, but strong freight volume may lead to a rebound on the most popular lanes this week or next.

TriHaul: L.A. – Seattle – Medford – Stockton – L.A.

You can still get almost $2.00 per mile leaving L.A., but it’s more of a challenge to find decent rates for the return trip to L.A., especially from Seattle. That lane barely pays “a buck a mile” — if you can even find a load.

Leaving Seattle, divide the southbound trip into shorter hauls. You’ll have more picks and drops, which can be time-consuming, but you’ll also make better money on your loaded miles. This itinerary isn’t really a triangular route – you’re on I-5 the whole time, so you don’t add any miles to the roundtrip. You will add about $650 in revenue, and boost your pay to $1.79 per loaded mile for the roundtrip, which could be a good week’s work in a slow season.