Reefer capacity remains tight, volumes are strong and spot rates are very high. In fact, at $3.29/mile including fuel, national average reefer spot rates on Truckstop.com’s load boards have not yet retreated from their YTD high.
Midwest to the East Coast lanes have the most momentum and may continue getting more expensive through Q4, but in general we expect next month to be positive for rates. In 2019, reefer spot rates peaked for the year during the week of Nov. 17.
In our view, absolute reefer capacity — the total number of trucks available for dispatch — is less volatile than dry van capacity because of the specialized equipment and knowledge necessary to haul refrigerated freight. Reefer carriers are more resilient during soft markets and capacity comes in more slowly during hot markets. For that reason, we expect reefer spot markets to support mid- to high-single- digit contract rate increases that will perhaps prove more sustainable than rate hikes on the dry van side.
With spot rates still at YTD highs as we enter peak season, we believe that shippers will feel significant pressure to raise contract rates and even tender cost-plus projects in order to secure capacity.
Reefer has been tighter and more sensitive as a market than dry van all year long, and we expect that to hold true in the fourth quarter.
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