Reefer market update: Rates, demand tumble nationally, with some bright spots in local markets

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DAT-ReeferRatesMap-2015-Oct4-10

Spot market rates dipped a cent per mile for reefer haulers on DAT Load Boards last week to a national average of $1.95 per mile — that’s down almost a dime, however, since the last update the week after Labor Day. Outbound rates continue to trend up in key agricultural markets, including Grand Rapids, Mich.; McAllen, Texas; and Nogales, Ariz., however.

Rates were lackluster in the larger freight markets, however, as produce harvests wane and the back-to-school and Halloween merchandise has already been delivered to stores.

Rates shown in the above chart are derived from DAT RateView and are based on actual rate agreements between freight brokers and carriers.

Demand for reefers moved commensurate with the rate decline, slipping 13 percent on the spot market last week following an end-of-quarter surge in the previous week, and truck capacity added 2 percent. That combination led to a 15 percent overall decline in the national average load-to-truck ratio, from 4.6 to 3.9 loads per truck on DAT Load Boards. Compared to Overdrive‘s last update on the segment, that’s a decline from 5.2 loads per truck, or more than 20 percent.Demand for reefers moved commensurate with the rate decline, slipping 13 percent on the spot market last week following an end-of-quarter surge in the previous week, and truck capacity added 2 percent. That combination led to a 15 percent overall decline in the national average load-to-truck ratio, from 4.6 to 3.9 loads per truck on DAT Load Boards. Compared to Overdrive‘s last update on the segment, that’s a decline from 5.2 loads per truck, or more than 20 percent.

Albuquerque, N.M., continues to offer high load availability for reefers, coupled with a shortage of trucks. The demand turned New Mexico into a Hot State, as shown in this map for the week of October 4-10 above. Pockets of high demand and favorable ratios can also be found in Little Rock, Ark., and additional opportunities surfaced in Fargo, N.D., and Augusta Maine, but conditions have turned soft in California, Arizona and much of the Pacific Northwest after the demand surge last month.

Grand Rapids, Mich., is still a bright spot for reefers. The roundtrip between Grand Rapids and Philadelphia is over 1,400 miles, and if you can load and unload fast, you might make it in three days for an average of more than $1,000 in revenue per day. If delays are going to add a fourth day to the trip, look to split the return to Grand Rapids — several options exist for this route, including loads that take you to Cincinnati, currently averaging $1.84 per mile on the load boards, Cincinnati to Grand Rapids at a high $2.97 per mile. Compared to the averages straight back to Michigan, you’ll add more than $850 to your roundtrip revenue to pay for that fourth day with just 200 extra miles. Examine the details below.

DAT-ReeferTriHaul-2015Oct4-10

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