It's February, so it should be no surprise that freight availability is down, and so are rates. Van rates lost another 3¢ per mile last week, as a national average, and only a handful of markets are showing signs of an upward trend.
Spring can't come too soon. In recent years, spot market load availability and rates peaked in March. Conditions may improve in just a few weeks, if that pattern holds up. Even if the peak is delayed until June, which is more typical, we could see a bump in March.
On the bright side, fuel prices continue to fall, too. Diesel barely costs more than $2.00 per gallon at the pump, as a national average. That's the lowest price since 2005, and it's still dropping. It hurts you on the fuel surcharge, but it sure is a lot less painful to fill your tank nowadays.
The load-to-truck ratio declined from 1.7 to 1.4 loads per truck last week, as a national average. That's not a good ratio for carriers. A handful of states show up on last week's map as having high load-to-truck ratios, but that's because they have a shortage of trucks. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of loads in those states, so don't go there until you are confident you can get a load coming back out.
A 3¢ decline brought van rates down to $1.62 per mile as a national average last week. The change included another 1¢ decline in the average fuel surcharge. Rates rose for high-volume lanes originating in Denver, Houston and Atlanta, but outbound rates declined in Chicago and Philadelphia.
TriHaul Adds $500 to Roundtrip Pay: Chicago - Columbus - Louisville - Chicago
The roundtrip between Chicago and Columbus is problematic, but not because of the rate per loaded mile, which is a solid $1.82. The difficulty is that you’ll spend two days on the road, but you’ll only cover 700 miles. You make almost $1,300, or less than $650 per day. Your time is worth more than that, and you can get more with a TriHaul.
Leaving Columbus, find a shorter haul to Michigan, Indiana or Kentucky, and pick up a second load from there back to Chicago. For example, a TriHaul from Columbus to Chicago via Louisville, KY will boost your average rate from $1.82 to $2.08/mile for the roundtrip. You’ll wind up with almost $1,800 for two days' work, which is $500 more than you would have gotten for a straight roundtrip.
Daily maps, along with detailed information on demand, capacity and rates for individual markets and lanes, can be found in the DAT Power Load Board. DAT rates, including rates for TriHaul route suggestions, are based on actual rate agreements between freight brokers and carriers, as recorded in DAT RateView.