The good news is that spot freight volumes and rates have returned to pre-COVID levels, and they’re not dropping back down.
Not-so-good news: Rates don’t seem to be rising much higher at the moment. And that pre-COVID period? That was in February. We all know what rates are like in February. In the immortal words of Tony Soprano: “Fuggedaboutit.”
The national average for spot van truckloads is $1.77 per mile, which is 2 cents higher than it was last week. Truckers don’t want to run for less than that – or not very far, anyway.
On the bright side, about half the loads have been paying more than $1.77, and some pay a lot more. It’s all about location. That’s why dispatchers and independent owner-operators invest extra time searching for hot markets where freight is plentiful and rates are rising.
This week’s hot market is Memphis because of its association with retail merchandise, says DAT’s Matt Sullivan.
“High-level takeaways right now are that retail freight seemed to provide a boost last week, picking up the steam that was kinda lost in the previous week,” Sullivan reported in an email.
Some of the pressure could be due to the close of the fiscal quarter next week, as well as retail re-stocking in advance of July 4th, he added.
Reefer fleets can expect to find fresh seasonal produce in all the usual places, with big rate increases on a handful of lanes originating in Georgia, while rates are starting to decline on reefer loads leaving California. Overall volume flattened out last week, so reefers may be on a glide path for the next couple weeks.
Rates and volumes typically drop for both reefers and vans after the holiday weekend, but this year is definitely not typical. As more businesses re-open, there could well be an off-season surge – or two, or three – in freight volumes and rates. Both reefers and vans should get an unusually big boost in late summer for back-to-school items, which include clothing, shoes, backpacks, and a lot of cafeteria food, in addition to all the usual stuff on the teachers’ checklists.