Two lanes caught my eye this week: Atlanta and Columbus, with rates declining in both directions. Elsewhere, it was a pretty quiet week for vans. The pressure is subsiding in the Southeast, and the Midwest has not yet recovered any pricing power.
Interestingly, in the east-west direction, we have some change with rates rising in Memphis and Charlotte, also in both directions. Also, we have the consecutive lanes from Columbus to Philadelphia, and from Philly to Boston, both with rising rates, and by about the same percentage. Meanwhile, rates from Chicago to Philly dropped significantly.
What does it all mean? Freight patterns are shifting subtly. Increased spot market load volume in the major lanes points to a strong month close. Other positive indicators: Dallas bounced back, and California markets maintained their gains,as did Memphis. Also, some backhaul rates rose from Lakeland and Denver. Another sign of strength: rates dropped 12% from Phoenix to Los Angeles responding to an increase in inbound freight from LA.
Rates are rising steadily if not quickly for refrigerated freight. Pricing lags May 2011 so far, whether you are comparing individual lanes or looking at the national average for the first half of this month: $1.57 vs. $1.61 for the same month last year. It looks like rates may be catching up in the coming weeks, however, which would be the expected pattern. June is typically the month with the highest reefer rates on the spot market.
My prediction: With fuel prices declining, and harvests coming in a bit more gradually than last year, the period of increased rates may be be longer and flatter. Think "mesa" instead of "peak," keeping average line haul rates well above $1.50 (at least $2.00, including fuel) from now through September.
Not much has changed in the flatbed segment in the last week. Stay tuned.