Rates typically increase on the spot market during the last week of the quarter, so they were expected to rise at the end of March. Instead, the increases arrived early in the month. Van rates rose by $0.05 during the first week of March and then held steady at $1.31 per mile, as a national average.
In the last seven days, van rates increased by 0.6%, led by the Dallas market. The biggest increases were in lanes from Dallas to Laredo and to Chicago.
Reefer rates rose steadily throughout the month, accumulating a 2.2% increase compared to February. The Chicago and Dallas markets led the upward trend, but the typical seasonal rate increases did not materialize in the major produce lanes. Produce shipments were delayed due to excessive rain in California and severe winter weather in other markets. Look for an additional boost in produce-intensive lanes in the coming weeks.
Compared to March of 2010, the average linehaul rate for reefers is now higher by $0.04. Last year, rates rose by just $0.01 from March to April, but this year's rates may have more headroom due to capacity pressures. Even so, rates are not increasing everywhere. Outbound rates declined in March for most lanes originating in the backhaul markets of Denver and Philadelphia.
Like dry vans, flatbed rates jumped early in the month, rising by $0.05 per mile between March 1st and 9th and then maintaining that price for the rest of the month. Western regional traffic from Los Angeles shows the most upward price movement in flatbeds during March. Activity also remains high from port cities including Charleston, Houston, and Savannah.