Van rates rose in the ‘short’ Labor Day week, reversing recent seasonal falls

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The short Labor Day week yielded some positive moves on the spot market around the country; headed into next week, with Hurricane Florence sitting offshore and bearing down on South and North Carolina and surrounding areas, a couple things to keep in mind:

Big weather events like hurricanes tend to affect the spot market in three stages, according to the folks at DAT.

  • Before the storm, spot-market demand increases as shippers, brokers, and other organizations look for trucks to position freight.
  • When the storm is about to hit and areas are being evacuated, there is little movement of goods until the storm passes.
  • After the storm, emergency supplies usually provides a temporary increase in inbound rates. Van and reefer loads tend to move in first, and flatbed demand picks up if there’s construction equipment needed for rebuilding and cleanup. Getting in at a decent rate is generally easy. Out? Not so much. The number of outbound loads is typically low until residents return and businesses start up again.
Last week, the number of van loads posted on DAT load boards fell 6 percent compared to the previous week, but that fall represents strong demand, considering board activity typically declines 20 to 25 percent during a holiday week. The number of truck posts was down 14 percent, turning larger swathes of the load-to-truck density map darker.Last week, the number of van loads posted on DAT load boards fell 6 percent compared to the previous week, but that fall represents strong demand, considering board activity typically declines 20 to 25 percent during a holiday week. The number of truck posts was down 14 percent, turning larger swathes of the load-to-truck density map darker.

Van rates were higher on many lanes. The national average spot van rate jumped 6 cents to $2.20/mile after several weeks of declines.

Hot markets: The need to ship freight from the Northeast into Charlotte ahead of the storm pushed rates higher on several key lanes, including the incoming hauls to Charlotte from Buffalo (up 21 cents to an average of $2.54/mile) and Philadelphia (up 15 cents to $1.90/mile).

Elsewhere, two of the van lanes with the greatest increases were out of Denver, where you usually need all the help you can get. Denver to Oklahoma City paid 24 cents better at $1.47/mile — not great, but higher than we’ve seen in more than a month. —Denver to Albuquerque, meanwhile, gained 25 cents to $2.24/mile.

Not so hot: Pricing out of Memphis continued to lag, with Memphis to Atlanta down 12 cents to $2.68/mile compared to the previous week.

Reefer load posting activity saw a steeper decline (down 16 percent) than reefer truck posts (down 6 percent) during Labor Day week. That pushed the national reefer ratio down from 9.2 to 8.3 loads per truck.Reefer load posting activity saw a steeper decline (down 16 percent) than reefer truck posts (down 6 percent) during Labor Day week. That pushed the national reefer ratio down from 9.2 to 8.3 loads per truck.

Demand indicators remain strongest for truckers across the northern band of states, where harvests continue to keep reefer markets tight. In the southern half, shippers and brokers are having an easier time finding trucks. As a national average, the reefer rate was up 8 cents to $2.57/mile last week.

Hot markets: Reefer volumes out of Elizabeth, New Jersey, rose last week despite the short workweek, and two lanes reflected big rate jumps: Elizabeth to Boston shot up 31 cents to $4.96/mile, and Elizabeth to Atlanta was up 21 cents to $2.37/mile. In southern Idaho, the reefer load-to-truck ratio topped 60 earlier this week and outbound rates in Twin Falls have climbed 8 percent in the past month.

Not so hot: Pricing in the Upper Midwest has been volatile. The lane from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Cleveland spiked 50 cents to $3.94/mile, but Grand Rapids to Madison fell 57 cents at $3.53/mile. Rates out of California continued to slide. Sacramento to Portland, Oregon, dropped 40 cents to $3.57/mile, and Ontario to Seattle lost 18 cents at $2.73/mile.

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