Major Freight Markets Saw Biggest Rate Surge of the Year

Rates on the top 100 van lanes showed the strongest surge of the year. Freight patterns showed increased retail trade ahead of Memorial Day weekend, and since some drivers finished the week up early ahead of the holiday weekend, capacity also tightened. Many reefer markets also matched their peaks from June 2016.

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for vans in the darker red areas on the Hot States Map above.

Volumes were down a bit in the major van markets last week, likely because truckers were reluctant to take any new loads near the end of the week that might’ve kept them from being home for the holidays. That also led to fewer truck posts, and as you can see in the Hot States Map above, that pushed load-to-truck ratios higher in a number of states. Volumes had the steepest declines in Atlanta and Houston, but Memphis van load counts spiked 13%.

The tighter capacity meant that many shippers had to pay a premium to move freight ahead of the holiday weekend, so outbound rates were up in almost every major van freight market. Rates were up on 70 of the top 100 van lanes. In general, markets that feed into the Northeast were up, while Denver, Seattle, and rates coming out of the Northeast were down.

All rates below include fuel surcharges and are averages based on real transactions between brokers and carriers.


  • Houston to Oklahoma City rose 24¢ to an average of $2.04/mile
  • The lane from Houston to Chicago was up 17¢ to $1.94/mile
  • Atlanta to Memphis rates were up 22¢ at $1.93/mile
  • Memphis to Columbus was up 17¢ to $1.94/mile
  • Out West, L.A. to Denver rates rose 18¢ to $2.49/mile
  • And even Seattle had a regional spike: Rates on the lane to Eugene, OR, were up 23¢ to $2.31/mile


Only 22 of the top 100 van lanes had lower rates last week, and only one was down significantly.

  • Chicago to Buffalo was down 17¢ to $2.14/mile

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for reefers in the darker blue areas on the Hot States Map above.

Central California produce returned in a big way last week, and outbound reefer rates soared 13% in Fresno. The average length of haul for produce shipments was longer last week, which soaked up extra capacity. That also pushed rates up, which have already matched their June peaks from a year ago in many parts of the country. That could make for a very strong June this year.

There were also surprising increases out of Nogales, AZ, near the Mexican border, and down in Florida. There were also modest increases in rates out of Chicago and Dallas, with a strong uptick in volumes out of Dallas. Ontario, CA, also had a big surge of shipments from the Coachella and Imperial Valleys.


  • Fresno to Denver surged 52¢ to $2.70/mile on average
  • Fresno to Chicago was up 35¢ to $2.16/mile

Some late-season surprises out of Florida:

  • Lakeland to Atlanta rose 44¢ to $2.30/mile
  • Miami to Baltimore was up 35¢ to $2.63/mile

Nogales, AZ to Dallas jumped up 43¢ to $3.04/mile, probably aided by strong volumes from neighboring California


Not many

  • Green Bay to Minneapolis slipped 20¢ to $1.99/mile, but prices were up on other major lanes leaving that market
  • McAllen, TX to Atlanta was down 9¢ at $2.04/mile, but shorter lanes stayed strong

Load-to-truck ratios are highest for flatbeds in the darker green areas on the Hot States Map above.

The story was the same for flatbed as the other segments: Volumes dipped, but rates rose. Flatbed load counts are still strong in Texas, but it was the port cities of Los Angeles and Jacksonville that propelled rates, along with inland markets like Cleveland, Raleigh, and Rock Island, IL. L.A. had the highest volumes outside of Texas.


  • The lane Las Vegas to Los Angeles spiked earlier this year, and it did it again last week: Up to $3.71/mile on average
  • Dallas to Tulsa rates were also up, likely due to oil-related traffic. That lane paid $2.49/mile on average
  • Another lane that’s hovering above the $3 mark late into spring: Memphis to St. Louis averaged $3.03/mile

Cleveland finally joined the party too. The lanes to Harrisburg, PA, and to Grand Rapids, MI, each had much higher rates last week


  • Flatbed rates are still pretty volatile from one week to the next, so there are still some big drops, even if there aren’t many
  • Volumes in Birmingham are still soft, except for local freight. And even then, the intra-state lane to Mobile fell 56¢ to $2.27/mile
  • Savannah slowed after a two week spike. Rates on the lane to Greer, SC were down 54¢ but still averaged $3.11/mile
  • Memphis to Dallas was also down 27¢ to $2.76/mile

Find loads, trucks and lane-by-lane rate information in the DAT Power load board, including rates from DAT RateView.