August shaping up well on the spot market, all things considered — van, reefer updates

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Load-to-truck ratios declined for vans and flatbeds last week, but rose for reefers. National average rates lost a penny per mile for each of the three equipment categories. Yet these are still strong rates for this time of year, which bodes well for the rest of the third quarter — “In terms of loads,” notes DAT’s Ken Harper, “the load-to-truck ratio is at 5 nationally, which is just below the 5.5:1 mark.” Considered on a national basis, that “would turn our Hot States Map red across the board if all states had equal distributions of freight and trucks.”

All things are never equal, of course, but to “put it in perspective,” Harper adds, “for the last two years, the load-to-truck ratio for vans in 2016 was just below 3, and in 2015 it was below 2.”

It all could bode well heading into the “‘second freight’ season that usually starts in late September and can run through the Christmas holidays,” Harper says.

We are in the middle of a seasonal transition, so there’s a geographic shift. More loads are available in the Upper Midwest and Northeast, while the Southeast is winding down, and trends in the Western region are mixed. The end result is a one cent per mile decline in the national average rate for the week, which is a very small change in an otherwise fairly strong market.We are in the middle of a seasonal transition, so there’s a geographic shift. More loads are available in the Upper Midwest and Northeast, while the Southeast is winding down, and trends in the Western region are mixed. The end result is a one cent per mile decline in the national average rate for the week, which is a very small change in an otherwise fairly strong market.

Hot van markets: Buffalo recovered last week from a brief decline the week before, and outbound rates rose an average of 5 cents per mile. Buffalo is a key transit point between the U.S. and Canada. Gains are perhaps a sign of increased trade. Columbus, Ohio, is also a hot market for August, and it’s benefiting from the seasonal transition, as well as increased consumer confidence. Freight out of Columbus is associated with retail traffic. Last, and maybe least, Denver is on a hot streak, along with so-called “back-haul” markets in general.

Not so hot: Philadelphia backed off its previous week’s highs, but outbound rates there are still stronger than they were a month ago. Compared to last week, rates were stable in most other major markets, but if you compare to late July, rates are down in Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston. That’s a typical, seasonal slump for the South.

Reefer load posts were up 5 percent last week, but the national average rate lost 1 cent.Reefer load posts were up 5 percent last week, but the national average rate lost 1 cent.

Hot reefer markets: The Midwest has heated up for reefers, which is a normal trend for this time of year. More loads are moving out of the Grand Rapids market, and outbound rates rose in Green Bay and Chicago. More loads left Sacramento last week, too, but it’s still not a high-volume market at this point in the summer.

Not so hot: Unfortunately, we still haven’t seen the volume we expected out of Fresno. It had a little spike two weeks ago, which raised hopes, but then rates dropped back down again last week.  Ontario, Calif., volume and rates are declining seasonally, which is expected.