Last week, the national average line haul rate for vans remained steady, and a penny was added to the fuel surcharge. The seemingly calm rate trend masked a lot of churn in major markets and lanes.
Rate trends are more visible when fuel surcharges are omitted. Average van rates were stable in August, but only a few cents higher than they were in January, while flatbed and reefer rates were about ten cents above January levels, with flatbed rates rising and reefer rates declining seasonally.
The biggest shift in van freight volume and rate strength is regional, from the Southeast and South Central regions to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. In the early fall, expect this trend to extend into the Upper Midwest, as well.
EAST: Rates are falling in Charlotte and Atlanta, but outbound rates from Philadelphia were up a penny per mile in the past week, on top of a robust, eight-cent increase in the previous month.
MIDWEST: In the next state to the West, carriers departing from Columbus are also enjoying a rate revival. Columbus rates spiked $0.08 in just the past week, plus $0.03 more since mid-August. Chicago rates are holding steady and may rise seasonally. Columbus has stolen some of the thunder from the Windy City, and so has Memphis, where outbound rates average $2.10 per mile with fuel. Chicago's prominence appears to be waning, in favor of those smaller, well positioned freight markets.
WEST: Outbound lanes from Stockton are priced at an average of $1.83 on a downward trend, starting with a 5-cent slip in August, plus another 3-cent loss in the total rate last week. Los Angeles rates are still above $2.00 per mile, but outbound demand is relatively weak, as the expected surge of imports is not materializing yet at the Golden State's key port. Inbound lanes to L.A. are not paying carriers enough to make the round-trip worthwhile, as most carriers need to average above $1.75 or $1.80 per mile to be profitable.