DAT Solutions: Warming trends for reefers

Special to Land Line | Thursday, March 16, 2017

It’s been a rough winter in many temperature-controlled freight markets.

Rain and snow in California have upended planting schedules. Reefer loads in Florida surged last month and then seem to have run their course for now. Warmer weather in the Midwest meant that some commodities suddenly didn’t need to be protected from freezing, opening that freight to the van market.

But things have started to turn around.

While the national average reefer rate dipped 1 cent to $1.87/mile during the week ending March 11, most major reefer lanes on DAT MembersEdge paid better compared with the previous week. Load posts held steady while truck posts declined 1 percent, which caused the reefer load-to-truck ratio to inch up 1 percent to 5.8.

One reefer market in particular has stayed hot: Texas, home to three of the top five markets for reefer load posts last week. McAllen was No. 2 behind Atlanta and had some sizzling rate increases, including outbound to Atlanta (up 24 cents to an average of $2.12/mile), Elizabeth, N.J. (up 18 cents to $2.09/mile), and Chicago (gaining 16 cents to $1.97/mile).

Houston was the nation’s No. 3 reefer market, followed by Elizabeth and Dallas at No. 5.

Steady ratios: Overall, the spot market was steady across all three equipment types. The number of available loads increased 1.3 percent last week, which kept load-to-truck ratios flat compared to the previous week’s double-digit gains:

  • Van ratio: 2.8 loads per truck, down 2 percent
  • Reefer ratio: 5.8, up 1 percent
  • Flatbed ratio: 35.8, up 4 percent

Rates take a dip: The national average spot van rate dropped 3 cents while reefer rates and flatbed rates each slipped a penny: 

  • Vans: $1.63/mile
  • Reefers: $1.87/mile
  • Flatbeds: $2.01/mile

Flats on the rise: The flatbed load-to-truck ratio increased for the sixth week in a row as the number of load posts was up 4 percent and truck posts held firm.

Vans in neutral: The national average van rate lost some of the previous week’s gains, but trends were neutral on the top 100 van lanes. Spring freight season isn’t here quite yet.

Houston, we have lift-off: Investment in natural gas facilities on the Gulf Coast has contributed to a big uptick in spot freight activity in the Houston market. Last week, the average van rate from Houston-New Orleans was up 10 cents to $2.09/mile. Flatbed loads like construction materials and machinery are also moving through Houston.

Van lanes with gains: While average outbound van rates were mixed in key markets across the country, some lanes showed pricing strength:

  • Dallas-Houston was up 5 cents to $2.11/mile
  • Dallas-Chicago paid 4 cents better on average at $1.14/mile
  • Chicago-Buffalo rose 13 cents to an average of $2.30/mile
  • Chicago-Los Angeles is generally a low-paying lane but it paid 9 cents better at $1.26/mile to compensate a bit for a weaker-than-normal market in Los Angeles, which averaged $1.82/mile outbound.

Rates are derived from DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on prevailing spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. All reported rates include fuel surcharges.

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, visit OOIDA’s MyMembersEdge.com load board, tune in to Land Line Now, and join the conversation on Twitter with @LoadBoards.

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