Reefer demand heats up, but rates lose a penny

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It could be a little tougher than usual to find reefer equipment this week. The run-up to Labor Day weekend and the new school year typically leads to a surge in demand for transportation of fresh food.

This year, the back-to-school grocery fest coincides with late-summer harvests. Apples, pears, onions, and potatoes are rolling out of orchards and fields in the Upper Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and parts of the Northeast, just as school cafeterias and busy parents are re-stocking fridges all over the country.

That extra activity boosted the national average load-to-truck ratio 15% last week, an unusually big jump, from 8.3 to 9.6 loads per truck. In a surprising twist, however, the national average rate for reefers dropped a penny lower, to $2.49 per mile for the month to-date. That could be due to a higher proportion of long-haul lanes in the mix, and rates might rebound a few cents before the month ends on Thursday. Meanwhile, reefer ratios and rates are back to where they were in May.

DAT load boards provide the largest and most trusted digital freight marketplace in the trucking industry, with more than 270 million loads and trucks posted annually, plus insights into current spot market and contract rates based on $57 billion in real transactions.

The national load-to-truck ratio rose 15% last week, to 9.6 loads per truck, with concentrated areas of tight capacity in the Pacific Northwest, Upper Midwest, and Northeast regions. The load-to-truck ratio represents the number of loads posted for every truck posted on DAT load boards. The ratio is a sensitive, real-time indicator of the balance between demand and capacity. Changes in the ratio often signal impending changes in freight rates.

Contract rates solidly above spot rates

Contract rates continue to rise for reefer equipment, up to $2.63 per mile including fuel as we approach the end of August. Contract rates now exceed spot market rates by 14¢/mile, restoring a gap that had all but disappeared in the past 12 months.

Find loads, trucks and lane-by-lane rate information in DAT load boards, including rates from DAT RateView.

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