National shift in freight prompts strong van rates post-Harvey

Tornado watch mapTruck freight patterns nationwide have already been altered by the impact of Hurricane Harvey and its destructive landfall in southeast Texas late last month, according to DAT Solutions’ Mark Montague. Van rates have leapt in the past 10 days, and reefer rates this week have started to surge, Montague says.

Van rates have jumped 6 cents a mile already this week, following an 11-cent bump last week, says Montague, a pricing expert and analyst for DAT. Reefer rates have gained 9 cents a mile since last week, he says.

Van haulers in the southeastern U.S. are busy hauling relief loads like water and medical supplies to Harvey-affected areas in Texas, says Montague, and hauling loads to Florida in preparation for the landfall of Hurricane Irma, a major hurricane projected to hit the state this weekend.

This strain in capacity and disruption of typical van freight lanes has shifted freight flow in all regions of the U.S., Montague says, and has driven up rates.

For instance, says Montague, the Chicago to Denver lane for van haulers climbed 20 cents a mile last week. The Columbus, Ohio, to Allentown, Pa., lane has seen rates spike 31 cents. Both of these are due to shifts in freight patterns, Montague says, as the “southbound and westbound alternatives to supplying the northeast falls on the shoulders of Columbus, Chicago and other distribution centers.”

Atlanta last week was the top spot for outbound loads, says Montague, and about half of those are going to Florida. Another chunk are destined for Texas, he says.

Van load availability outbound from Houston is rebounding from the storm-caused closures of ports and warehouses, Montague added.

Houston is typically one of the country’s top locations for outbound flatbed freight. Such freight hasn’t rebounded yet, says Montague, but he expects inbound flatbed loads to Houston to grow — along with rates — inbound to the city as part of the reconstruction efforts in the region.