Reefer load posts heat up amid an underwhelming produce season

June 23, 2022

Special to Land Line

|

The number of loads posted to the MembersEdge load board fell 5.6% to 3.27 million loads during week of June 12-18, the lowest weekly total so far this year. The number of loads on the network is 26% lower year over year and 13% less than the same week in 2018, a generally robust year for spot freight.

Reefer load posts increased 6%, with the traditional spring and summer produce season entering its final stretch. However, truckloads of produce are down almost 18% year over year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would equate to roughly 34,000 fewer truckloads of produce moved last week compared to the same week in 2021.

The number of dry van load posts fell 0.4% week over week while flatbed load posts declined 11.4%.

Capacity dipped but remained high

The number of trucks posted to the network fell 2.5% last week but was the highest total for the third week of June. Dry van equipment posts fell 2.2% compared to the previous week and flatbed equipment posts were virtually unchanged. Reefer equipment posts declined 4.5%.

Load-to-truck ratios were steady for vans and reefer.

  • Vans: 3.5 loads per truck as a national average, unchanged from the previous week.
  • Reefers: 6.3, up from 5.3.
  • Flatbeds: 36.5, down from 41.2.

A higher ratio usually means better pricing power for the owner-operator. Fewer load posts and historically high truck posts helped push rates lower as a national average.

  • Vans: $2.72 per mile, down 3 cents from the previous week.
  • Reefers: $2.98 a mile, down 2 cents.
  • Flatbeds: $3.35 a mile, down 1 cent.

These are broker-to-carrier rates and they include a portion for a fuel surcharge. Without the surcharge, the van line-haul rate averaged $1.94 a mile last week, reefer loads averaged $2.21 a mile, and flatbed freight averaged $2.58 a mile.

Lane to watch: L.A.-Chicago

The volume of dry van loads moving between Los Angeles and Chicago is up 13% month over month and 16% year over year. And that’s before an expected surge in containers this summer.

L.A.-Chicago is an important intermodal lane, one where truckload carriers have been able to compete for freight because they provide faster, more reliable service than the railroads. Spot dry van rates from Los Angeles to Chicago are trending up. They averaged $2.49 a mile over the last seven days, which is 13 cents better than the May average.

The risk is that the van load-to-truck ratio in Chicago is 1.3 over the last seven days. Load availability in adjacent markets – like Milwaukee; Rockford, Ill.; and Gary, Ind. – isn’t much better. At these fuel prices, you want to keep your deadhead miles to a minimum.

For more information

Get more detail into freight trends on MembersEdge at DAT.com, and listen to Land Line Now every Wednesday for the latest spot-market update.

DAT MembersEdge is a service provided exclusively to OOIDA members at a discounted price. LL

Listen to this week’s Land Line Now discussion about freight trends and which regions and markets are most affected by weather with Stephen Petit of DAT.

Lucas Oil