Well, if you thought $5.00 per gallon for diesel was bad, here’s it’s ugly cousin. Up in the “Northeast 11,” it has hit $6.00. And the spot rates are not pretty either. DOE National average fuel prices are at $5.50, up $0.35 since the April 25 reading. This is putting heavy pressure on owner-operators and small fleet owners that are reporting nearly a $1,000 per week increase in fuel costs. The choice between continuing to slog through or “park it/sell it” is becoming more of a talking point than just diner or bar gossip. With used truck prices at obscene, overpriced levels, the ability to sell a truck and buy a house with cash is an interesting choice to make.
Van drivers aren’t doing any better this week, down $0.04 from last week. With the spring doldrums in full effect, I’m personally not betting on an improvement until the summer stocking season, when fall fashion and holiday goods arrive. Hopefully the ports will have their union contract settled and can get those containers moving at speed. Shippers are already moving cargo vessels over to the East Coast ports like Charleston and Savannah.
Refrigerated, the king of freight spot rates three months ago (at $4.58 on February 2nd), is now alongside their dry van brothers at $3.14, down $0.02 from last week. Asking some of my local farmers what was going on, their replies were simply “too cold, too dry, or too wet when we don’t need the water.” A large farm near Adel, Georgia once known for its cabbages, collards, and kale is now “laying out,” waiting to be planted in peanuts. And with the spring floods starting in the Northern Plains, getting a crop down might be affected for a few weeks.
At least one sector of the spot market looks to be doing well and that’s flatbeds. Holding steady at $3.85, flatbeds seem to be the winner in all the turmoil. With spring construction season well underway, all types of materials need to be hauled ASAP. And a large number of loads and a demand for drivers to move them means the rates are well-supported. For the drivers that are willing and able to handle the workload of flatbedding, it might be a good choice to swap your trailers and pull some big freight.