Mixed bag for van, reefer rates in the last week as diesel hits a high mark

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Demand was strongest for vans across the Southern band of states in the U.S. last week, showing high load-to-truck ratios.Demand was strongest for vans across the Southern band of states in the U.S. last week, showing high load-to-truck ratios.

Last week, diesel prices hit the highest mark of the year at an average of $3.28 per gallon nationally, which is 74 cents higher than it was a year ago. Fuel prices added to pressure on all-in spot market rates, keeping the national average van rate stable at $2.15 per mile, up 46 cents from last year. Subtract diesel prices’ effect on that rise (figured as a 33-cent surcharge based on 6 mpg and the current price) and the majority of the rise evaporates in average costs, though rates are still in fact ahead of last year’s levels.

Demand was strong for both refrigerated and dry van transportation, keeping truckload capacity quite tight across the southern band of states from California to the Carolinas, while a seasonal lull led to declining rates out of the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

Hot markets: California is coming on strong, especially on high-traffic lanes out of Los Angeles. Of the top 100 van lanes, the biggest increase in rates was on the lane from Atlanta to Philadelphia, up 28 cents to an average of $3.28 per mile.

Not so hot: Prices on some inbound California lanes declined in response to the higher outbound demand. For example, Denver to Stockton, Calif., was down to just $1.46 per mile on average. Demand also slowed in Seattle, and there were more empty trucks competing for freight in the Midwest and Northeast.

Volumes and rates out of Atlanta are hot for vans right now. Rates on most outbound lanes are trending up. Most of the time that would mean that inbound lanes pay less, but Houston to Atlanta is an exception. You could use that to your advantage when putting together a triangle outbound from Atlanta with Houston at the center. Atlanta to Dallas paid an average of $2.13 per mile last week. The trip back from Dallas to Atlanta was down to $1.74. A re-positioning load from Dallas to Houston — the lane paid an average of $2.69 per mile last week — would set you up to take advantage of higher prices on the Houston to Atlanta leg. The extra stop adds nearly 250 miles, but it could boost your roundtrip average rate from $1.94 to $2.27. If you can make it work with your hours, it’s an extra $1,082 in revenue for the trip.Volumes and rates out of Atlanta are hot for vans right now. Rates on most outbound lanes are trending up. Most of the time that would mean that inbound lanes pay less, but Houston to Atlanta is an exception. You could use that to your advantage when putting together a triangle outbound from Atlanta with Houston at the center. Atlanta to Dallas paid an average of $2.13 per mile last week. The trip back from Dallas to Atlanta was down to $1.74. A re-positioning load from Dallas to Houston — the lane paid an average of $2.69 per mile last week — would set you up to take advantage of higher prices on the Houston to Atlanta leg. The extra stop adds nearly 250 miles, but it could boost your roundtrip average rate from $1.94 to $2.27. If you can make it work with your hours, it’s an extra $1,082 in revenue for the trip. Produce season seems to have passed its peak in Florida. Outbound reefer rates and volumes fell sharply in Miami and Lakeland, Fla. last week.Produce season seems to have passed its peak in Florida. Outbound reefer rates and volumes fell sharply in Miami and Lakeland, Fla. last week.

Though produce volumes and rates fell out of Florida this week, reefer demand remains high across the southern band of states. That adds to capacity pressures on vans and helps demand indicators for both equipment types.

Hot markets: As Florida faded, demand shifted northward to Georgia. Outbound rates were higher from Atlanta, which is a transit point for regional produce. To the west, major produce markets continued to rev up in California, and reefer rates also rose at the Mexican border crossing markets of Nogales, Ariz., and McAllen, Texas.

Not so hot: Florida prices plummeted on major northbound lanes from the Sunshine State. For example, the average rate for a reefer load going from Miami to Atlanta plunged 74 cents to $2.38 per mile.

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