Rates Slip as Fuel Prices Edge Up

Rates are slipping slowly and steadily from a mid-June peak on the spot market, just as fuel prices are rising. That’s not a great combination, from the carrier’s perspective.

Rates displayed above are derived from DAT Truckload Rate Index. Dollar amounts represent national average spot market (“broker buy”) rates for line haul only, and do not include fuel surcharges.

VAN – Demand for vans is down, especially on the East Coast, leading to a 5% decline in the load-to-truck ratio, a key indicator of demand versus capacity. Of the top 64 van lanes in the U.S., 35 had declining rates. Only two major markets bucked the downward trend last week: Philadelphia, up 2.0% and Chicago, up 1.3% The biggest rate declines were felt in Stockton, down 3.5% and Charlotte, down 1.6%. The top lane choice for vans last week was Philadelphia to Boston, at $3.10 per mile. The round-trip average was also solid, at $2.47 including fuel. If you don’t get stuck in traffic, you might come away with a decent profit. On the West Coast, brokers paid top dollar — an average of $2.66 — for van freight from Stockton to Portland OR, but the return trip was priced low at $1.01.

REEFER – Rates for refrigerated vans trended down last week, but there was evidence of increased demand out of the Southern California markets of Ontario and Santa Ana. Rates rose 1.0% in Ontario but dropped 2.5% in Santa Ana. They may move up this week, if reefer capacity tightens up. The biggest drop in rates came from Sacramento, which lost 8.1% in a week. Declining volume there and in nearby Fresno (where rates dipped 2.0%) signals the beginning of the end of the summer harvest. Reefers lost ground in Texas, as well, with a 5.8% rate reduction out of Fort Worth and a 4.6% slip from McAllen.

FLATBED – Rates for flatbeds continue to decline in top lanes, for the third consecutive week. Among the top 76 flatbed lanes, by volume, 43 had declining rates last week, for a 1.5% slip. The strongest outbound market for flatbeds was Harrisburg PA, with an average rate of $3.62 on mostly short-haul traffic. For hauls of more than 400 miles, Memphis led with $2.86 per mile. Fort Worth rates lost only 1.0% last week, but that was enough to push them under $2.00 per mile, to $1.87. Nearby Dallas was a better pick at $2.12, despite a 9.8% week-over-week decline. The highest-paying lanes included Baltimore to Boston and Harrisburg to Boston — both paid over $3.65 — but it can be tough to find freight out of Boston. Cleveland to Harrisburg could be a better bet at $3.14, as Harrisburg is a hot market for flatbeds.