Reefer Markets Could Be in for a Wild March

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Reefer demand and rates declined steadily throughout February, which is a pretty typical spot market trend. The declines in reefer rates were steeper than the similar declines in van rates, but reefer prices were also extremely elevated heading into the month.

The national average spot market rate for reefers was down again last week at $2.40/mile, but that’s still higher than the average reefer contract rate. In fact, the average spot rate has been higher than the average contract rate for six straight weeks, something that usually only happens in June.

Volumes jumped up 9% last week, too. That puts reefer load counts roughly equal to where they were in mid-January. Easter should boost reefer demand in the weeks ahead, too. This year Easter lands on April 1, which also happens to be the end of the phase-in period for the ELD mandate. All of that has to potential to create some especially tight reefer markets in March.

DAT provides the largest and most trusted digital freight marketplace in the trucking industry, with more than 179 million loads and trucks posted annually, plus insights into current spot market and contract rates based on $45 billion in real transactions.

Many reefer markets had mixed results as we transitioned into the new month, but more lanes were up than down. Volumes were up in California, especially out of Fresno. Florida, the Midwest and the Northeast all had higher reefer load counts as well.

All rates below include fuel surcharges and are based on real transactions between brokers and carriers.


Rates out of Florida could go higher as we move closer to April, but a couple lanes got a head start:

  • Miami to Atlanta added 24¢ to $1.75/mile
  • Lakeland, FL, to Charlotte shot up 50¢ to $2.27/mile

Regional lanes had most of the big gains:

  • Green Bay to Joliet, IL, rose 35¢ to $4.07/mile
  • Philly to Columbus, OH, was up 27¢ to $2.57/mile


Grand Rapids is a big shipper of eggs, which tend to move cheap. So it’s not uncommon ahead of Easter for load counts there to rise even as rates fall, which is exactly what happened last week.

  • Grand Rapids to Madison, WI, dropped 23¢ to $3.01/mile
  • Green Bay to Philly fell 40¢ to $3.10/mile
  • Philly to Boston also lost 40¢, but it was still over $4 at $4.22/mile

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

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