In March, we analyzed and wrote about how the market deals with crashes, what causes and affects them, and gave some advice on how to deal with the current market. Here’s an update on what has been happening since then:
During the winter, the rates were incredibly low due to an increase in trucks and a volume that wasn’t enough to cover all those trucks. In other words, there was a supply that was higher than the demand. As the spring began, produce season was upon us, causing a very slight improvement during April, compared to the winter months. This growth has continued throughout May, yet the situation is still much worse than in previous years.
Spot rates have been improving, since there has recently been a decline in truck numbers, causing shippers and brokers to raise load prices. What’s very interesting is that these rates have been the highest since the beginning of the year—an average of $1.72 to be exact—but only for dry vans.
During the 2023 Canadian wildfires, millions of acres of woodland were destroyed, and before those wildfires, the US imported around 25% of Canadian lumber. This, along with the fact that many drivers have been turning to flatbeds hoping to earn more money than with dry vans, caused flatbed rates to go lower again. Simultaneously, it did raise dry van rates, so the market is finally getting better for dry van haulers. The produce season reaches its peak in the summer months, which is expected to affect the rates, and we can hope for more improvement during the fall as the demand gets higher due to the approaching holiday season. California, which has had a bad reputation for a very long time, is also getting a lot better in terms of freight volume, although it is still among the most expensive states to fuel. On the other hand, another great thing is that fuel prices have also been steadily dropping since the beginning of the year, reaching as low as $3.89 in some states. To quote one of our drivers: “One of the biggest challenges is learning how to handle fuel prices. It can drastically change within just a week! If you find that the cheapest state to get fuel in is South Carolina, next week may be another state. As a business owner, it is important you keep track of those prices and carefully watch which state has the cheapest fuel at the given moment.”
Even though fuel prices have been decreasing, IFTA taxes vary from state to state, which influences the price difference. That’s why it’s important to stay informed and ALWAYS PLAN. Route planning is important and will impact your income the most. States like Texas and especially Oklahoma will give you a greater income due to cheap fuel prices and high volumes. Avoid the northeast, and always ask your dispatcher for advice on which states will give you the best results.
The rates in May have reached the same level they did in April 2020, when COVID-19 hit. These rate fluctuations can be incredibly exhausting for drivers, as some have been driving non-stop for several months at a time without a break to make up for the bad market.
Is this improvement drastic? Unfortunately, it is very slow and slight, but it is significant nonetheless. The outtake for now is to save on fuel, not just by driving in states where the cost of it is lower, but to do better fuel management on your own, per our advice!