Snow in Dallas, Christmas Trees in Charlotte

My wife and I haven’t even purchased our Thanksgiving turkey yet, but the Christmas tree lots are popping up all over town.

Oregon is the number one producer of fresh Christmas trees in the U.S., but even if I hadn’t seen those temporary fences, I would know they were coming. I did my weekly check of spot market rates for vans in DAT RateView, and I saw a spike in outbound van rates from Seattle and Portland, heading south to California. The lane from Seattle to Stockton jumped 28¢ (22%) last week and Seattle to L.A. gained 16¢ (14%) while Portland to Stockton rose 21¢ (13%.) None of those rates exceeds $1.55 per mile with fuel, but they are typically low-demand, low-priced back haul lanes. In late November, however, those rates always get a temporary boost.

Likewise, the rate from Charlotte to Atlanta added 10¢ (5.1%.) Trees added to a mix of retail merchandise and hard goods that pushed the rate from Atlanta to Dallas up 14¢ (7.7%.) That second leg competes with rail intermodal, but trees and other valuable or time-sensitive items typically travel by van to prevent delays and rough handling. Many people are unaware of this, but North Carolina is the second-largest source of fresh Christmas trees in the U.S., after Oregon.

Time out for some fun facts — the top ten Christmas tree growing states, according to the National Christmas Tree Association:

  1. Oregon
  2. North Carolina
  3. Michigan
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Washington
  7. New York
  8. Virginia
  9. Ohio
  10. Minnesota

When those trees arrived in Dallas last week, let’s hope the trucks turned around and headed out before the storm hit. Severe weather pummeled Northern Texas and parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas on Monday, bringing freezing temperatures, a rare snowfall, and more than a dozen fatalities due to icy roads. Hundreds of flights were cancelled in and out of DFW, contributing to air traffic delays throughout the country. Winds and flooding also wreaked havoc in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Last week’s weather was very hard on the Midwest, too. No fewer than 24 tornadoes smacked into Illinois, and 28 hit Indiana, spreading death and destruction in their wake. Michigan was also affected. Severe weather events typically lead to an increase in freight rates into the disaster zone, first for vans and reefers carrying relief supplies, and later for flatbeds hauling heavy equipment to clear debris and rebuild. Van rates spiked last week on lanes from St. Louis and Des Moines into Washington, IL, which was hit very hard on November 17.

Storms are headed north and east now. Expect travel warnings in the Mid-Atlantic states, just in time for Thanksgiving. Stay safe out there!

If you’d like to learn more about RateView, this is a great time to call our customer support folks and ask for a free, 50-lane rate lookup. This is a special, limited time offer, so contact DAT today.