The national average refrigerated truckload spot rate on Truckstop.com’s load boards is an incredible $3.36/mile, including fuel. That has kept reefer tender rejections very high and operating ratios very low.

We called the bull market for refrigerated trucking transportation in our June 1 note, “Reefer markets: Enjoying a positive setup.” Our basic thesis that a consumer mix-shift from restaurant, bars and hotels to grocery stores would create positive uplift in demand for linehaul reefer capacity has been borne out over the past five months.

Today, reefer carriers are posting some of their lowest operating ratios in years. Marten Transport reported an 89.5% OR for the third quarter; we believe that will go lower if driver costs stay down. Information from the Truckload Carrier Association’s Truckload Profitability Program (TPP), a financial and operating data consortium of ~175 midsize carriers, tells the same story. TPP reefer fleets recorded an average operating ratio of 94.6%, right in line with the very best levels the consortium has reached since 2015.

Look for imports of refrigerated produce to ramp up in Los Angeles/Long Beach, New York/Jersey, but also in Philadelphia, the third-largest reefer container port by volume in the United States, as we head further into winter.

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