Where can reefer fleets find high-paying freight in late summer? July typically brings declining rates nationwide for temperature-controlled freight, because the growing season ends early in high-volume markets, including Florida, Southern Texas and Southern California. Some reefer markets are just beginning to heat up in July, however, and others don't really take off until August or even September.
Got reefers? Look for late-summer freight in these regions:
JULY IN CALIFORNIA: Pears are ready for picking now in the Sacramento Valley. Despite the drought, farmers have managed to find enough water to grow all but 3% to 5% of the highest-value crops, including nuts and tree fruit. The load-to-truck ratio for reefers is only 1.6 in Central California right now, because trucks are plentiful. There are hundreds of outbound reefer loads per day in this area, and rates should trending up soon.
AUGUST IN TEXAS: Harvests are mostly complete in the Rio Grande Valley, as evidenced by a 14% decline in rates outbound from the McAllen market in the past 30 days. McAllen is a year-round market, as a locale where produce is not only grown, but also imported and distributed, so even when it's between harvests, freight is widely available and the load-to-truck ratio is a respectable 3.9. Activity should be picking up soon in Amarillo, Fort Worth and Lubbock, too, as shipments of meat and related products head to grocery store shelves nationwide in time for summer barbecues and back-to-school lunches. Amarillo has an extreme shortage of trucks right now, and today's load-to-truck ratios out of Fort Worth and Lubbock are high at 12.6 and 18.4, respectively. Most meat products are moved under contract, but when demand is unexpectedly high, you will see some of these juicy loads on the spot market.
SEPTEMBER IN MICHIGAN: You can find reefer freight in Michigan now, as blueberries and cucumbers are ready to ship, and the outbound load-to-truck ratio is 11.3 in the Grand Rapids market and reefer rates are still averaging almost $3.00 per mile. Apples, cabbages and root vegetables roll out of Grand Rapids in the fall, starting in late August and continuing through September, when rates peaked last year. Rates out of Green Bay, Wisconsin have been trending up in the past 30 days, but last year's peak was in October. Green Bay's fall reefer freight consists of fruit and vegetables, including cabbages, potatoes and cranberries, until the first frost in late October. Wisconsin is also a year-round source of dairy products. Apples are also ripening all over Upstate New York in the fall, suggesting some interesting round-trip opportunities.
OCTOBER IN OREGON: Cherries are coming in now, and apples and pears will ripen in early fall in the Medford market and in Yakima, in neighboring Washington. Come back to the Northwest a month later to haul potatoes -- frozen as well as fresh -- from Twin Falls and other agricultural markets in Idaho.
NOVEMBER IN ARKANSAS: Of course, once you get into November, you can haul fresh and frozen turkeys from Little Rock -- and other Thanksgiving specialty items from farms nationwide -- to the major population centers. The Little Rock market has a shortage of trucks right now, and there are hundreds of loads available on a daily basis, so if you're in the neighborhood with an empty reefer, check your DAT Load Board. Come back a few weeks later for more turkeys, hams and trimmings, in the run-up to Christmas.
After the growing season is over, you may have some down time. Plan a vacation or keep an eye on DAT Load Boards and DAT RateView for unexpected opportunities.
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Note: This article was adapted from DAT’s blog post on www.DAT.com. It was first published in July 2014.