May ended on a strong note, with van rates up 4¢ from the April average. If that sounds like a small change, it’s because we are in a seasonal transition. Some lane rates declined, but two-thirds of the high-volume lanes got a rate increase in the past week alone. “High volume” means they’re the top 80 lanes by the number of loads moved each year, so you’re probably hauling there already.
The Sun Belt is hot for vans, as high demand and a shortage of trucks turned the map red across the southern band of states. Van rates rose sharply last week in Los Angeles and Stockton, and rates are rising in Dallas and Houston, although they’re still not great. On the other hand, you can always find a load out. Chicago and Columbus are finally showing some signs of life after a few disappointingly quiet months. In the Southeast, rates are rising in Atlanta and Charlotte, but Memphis outbound rate trends were mixed, with some lane rates increasing while others declined. Vans even got a rate increase in the Northeast last week, as outbound lanes improved in Philadelphia and Buffalo.
Every region has at least one Hot Market for flatbed freight. On the West Coast, look for loads in Los Angeles, where outbound rates rose another 7¢ per mile last week. In the South Central region, Houston is the biggest source of flatbed loads, and rates rose 30¢ to $2.38 per mile last week, in both directions between Houston and New Orleans. On the East Coast, choose between Baltimore to the north and Raleigh to the south, or go from one to the other, with a TriHaul (triangular) route to replace the low-priced southbound leg.
Outbound rates are moving up in Raleigh, NC, and there’s lots of freight available. The lane from Raleigh to Baltimore paid $2.75/mile last week for flatbeds. Rates are up in Baltimore, too but the return trip to Raleigh doesn’t pay well – it’s only $1.55/mile. You can do better with a TriHaul. Find a load from Baltimore to Roanoke, VA. That lane is paying $2.18/mile. From Roanoke back to Raleigh is a pretty short hop – only 165 miles – and it’s going for $575, all in. That’s $3.54 per loaded mile. If you can put this together in your schedule, you’ll add only 114 loaded miles, but you’ll make about $700 more for the trip: about $2,200 instead of $1,500.
Daily maps, along with detailed information on demand, capacity and rates for individual markets and lanes, can be found in the DAT Power load board. Rates are derived from actual rate agreements and contracts, as reported in DAT RateView.