Holiday reefer freight indicates slow economic growth

I called some of our carrier customers who specialize in refrigerated freight, to ask for their outlook as we approach the holidays. One major player in this segment reported that business is trending up after a quiet October, and the manager expects the surge to last until Christmas week. Another large refrigerated trucking company is shifting some freight to rail intermodal, but overall volumes are holding steady with a slight uptick compared to last year.

Commodities include produce imported through Texas and Arizona, and Christmas trees are just starting to ship from the Pacific Northwest. Even for carriers who do not haul trees, the seasonal freight has an impact on demand and rates. Freight volume is also strong from meat-packing states of Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Fresh turkeys are shipping this week.

I have heard similarly upbeat stories from two leading refrigerated equipment vendors, rounding out a “slightly positive” outlook for the season. As a “glass half full” kind of guy, I see this as good news.

Note: Spot market rates are derived from thousands of broker rate agreements with carriers, collected and analyzed in TransCore’s Truckload Rate Index. The average rates referenced above are for line haul only; they are calculated after subtracting fuel surcharges, accessorials and other fees.

National average rates tend to mask strong regional trends, which we discuss in other blog posts, as well as in the Rate Trend of the Week feature of our Trendlines web site. I am also available here on the Freight Talk blog to answer your questions about spot market trends on Monday evenings at 7:30 PM Eastern Time.