It’s been an active couple of weeks for spot freight since the last installment in this typically weekly report on spot market segment demand and rates around the country. Dictates of the news of late for truck demand? “Go west, young man,” says DAT’s Ken Harper, “since the whole West Coast is showing good freight and rising rates: L.A.-Long Beach was driven by the Hanjin debacle,” the abrupt bankruptcy of the Hanjin ocean shipping company. A number of its ships pulled into port last week, after a lot of delays and uncertainty. Hanjin is the world’s seventh-largest commercial shipping company, and it’s struggling to find the money to unload its ships.
Northern California and the Northwest are benefiting from an early harvest and, perhaps, Oakland and Tacoma ports picking up rerouted freighters (including container ships).
Another quick take, Harper says: “The rest of the country knows Santa’s coming. It’s the Fall freight season as retailers get ready for Halloween and Christmas. We sometimes forget consumers spend more money on Halloween than any holiday besides Christmas.”
Even if they didn’t have cargo on Hanjin ships, big retailers are starting to shift inventory from West Coast distribution centers to other DCs further east. October is a critical month for retail freight in advance of the Christmas season, and retailers want to prevent stock-outs while they wait for Asian imports to clear through congested docks and warehouses on the West Coast. Eastbound freight moves will become more urgent, and rates are likely to rise further, as Black Friday draws closer.
Rising: Specifically, Los Angeles rocketed up to the number-two spot for load posts on DAT load boards last week, after number one Chicago. Other West Coast markets with rising rates include Seattle and Stockton, Calif.
Falling: There were fewer loads moving out of Columbus and Chicago last week, but outbound rates remain strong in the Midwest. Prices slipped in the Northeast, though. Allentown, Pa., outbound rates lost traction, and Buffalo, N.Y., rates gave back the previous week’s gains.
Rising: Twin Falls, Idaho, held onto the top spot last week for reefer load posts on DAT TruckersEdge. The Elizabeth market area, in Northern New Jersey, is another hot spot for reefer freight right now. Volumes were down in nearby Philadelphia, however.
Falling: Grand Rapids, Mich., enjoyed high rates during August and the first half of September, but the fall season began with falling prices. It’s a clear signal that the apple picking season is done, and the fruit has already been moved to distribution centers and processing plants. Outbound rates also took a tumble out of Chicago last week, after three weeks of increases. Southbound lanes took the biggest hit, as rates declined from Chicago to both Kansas City and Atlanta.