Retail Shipments Keep Truckload Capacity Tight

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Volumes for the top van markets rebounded 5% last week, as shippers moved freight out the door before month’s end. Van rates remain elevated, despite a drop of a few cents per week since an early October peak. Rates may rebound before Thanksgiving, as retail sales are projected to grow by 6% this holiday season. That should keep truckload demand high on the spot market.

Load counts continued to climb in Los Angeles, and last Friday’s load-to-truck ratio hit 17.6 loads per truck for van. That’s a huge number for L.A., and it pushed outbound rates even higher there.

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


L.A. to Chicago is a premier intermodal lane, and competition from rail traffic typically keeps van rates low. All the extra freight in Los Angeles has created more urgency, though, so more of those loads are ending up on trucks instead of trains, and the average spot rate rose 13¢ to $1.69/mile

Rates on lanes serving the Northeast rose, which is another sign of strong retail demand:

  • Chicago to Buffalo gained 18¢ at $3.19/mile
  • The Memphis to Columbus lane paid 14¢ better at $2.19/mile, with shippers adjusting warehouse inventories


The three biggest declines last week were all out of the Northeast, since the stronger inbound volumes meant there were more trucks available in the region.

  • Allentown, PA, to Richmond, VA, dropped ▼16¢ to $2.51/mile
  • Buffalo to Chicago fell 14¢ to $1.73/mile
  • Philadelphia to Atlanta lost 12¢ at $1.88/mile

Like we were saying before, retail demand is pushing rates higher going into the Northeast. The flip side is that rates coming out of the Northeast are trending down. Buffalo’s an exception, trending up, so you can use that to your advantage..

Chicago to Buffalo has been a hot lane at $3.19/mile. Van loads on the backhaul from Buffalo to Chicago paid less last week, but it still makes for a pretty good roundtrip. You can boost that revenue with a TriHaul that runs through Toledo. Buffalo to Toledo paid $2.55/mile on average last week, and the short haul from Toledo to Chicago averaged $2.37. The mileage for the TriHaul is pretty similar to the roundtrip, but the TriHaul boosts your average rate per loaded mile up from $2.46 to $2.83. If it works with your hours, it’s an extra $424.

To find better-paying roundtrips on the lanes you’re running, use the TriHaul tool in DAT TruckersEdge Pro and DAT Power.

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