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Trucking spot markets are pricing in coronavirus infection rates

(Photo: Joisey Showaa / Flickr)

Truckload carriers are charging more to drive into regions of the United States with high coronavirus infection rates. 

Trucking spot markets – ad hoc, same-day and next-day transactions to move freight – are extremely sensitive to exogenous factors, reacting within days to hurricane forecasts, labor disputes or untimely harvests. But this is the first time we’re aware of when an infectious disease outbreak has affected specific lanes in United States freight markets.

The three regions seeing the most volatility in spot prices and capacity availability correspond to areas most affected by coronavirus: Seattle (68 deaths in Washington); New York City (20 deaths in New York); and San Francisco and Los Angeles (16 deaths in California).

According to, dry van rates including fuel from Los Angeles to Seattle jumped 9.6% this week compared to the week prior. While volumes have softened somewhat in the Seattle market, you’d have to go back to mid-October 2019 to find equivalent outbound volumes. Truckers are rejecting 12% of loads inbound to Seattle, one of the highest levels in a year.

Rates from Dallas into Los Angeles are up 27% since the lane bottomed in early February, but volumes have softened significantly in the past week. 

New York City, one of the centers of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States, is becoming a less desirable destination for truck drivers, especially for less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers. LTL freight is high-touch, and requires the driver to enter and exit his truck more often, sometimes making inside deliveries.

“Some LTL carriers are embargoing parts of New York for the NBG Service Center due to the total number of cases of coronavirus in these zip codes: 10801, 10802, 10804 and 10805,” Transplace CEO Frank McGuigan wrote in a blog post yesterday. ”Some LTL carriers have implemented a COVID-19 policy including no longer taking signatures at delivery, social distancing 6-10 feet, and not performing any inside deliveries until further notice. Some LTL carriers are embargoing certain shipments to Philadelphia as the city of Philadelphia is only accepting goods for 11 ‘essential business’ types that will remain open.”

Indeed, carriers are rejecting more loads into the Elizabeth, New Jersey market, which contains the Ports of New York and New Jersey and has been a reliable source of freight this year. Tender rejections for loads inbound to Elizabeth (ITRI.EWR) are at 16% compared to 13% for the rest of the country. 

More than ever, drivers are concerned that the rush of consumer demand for food and beverage and consumer packaged goods is leaving shippers unprepared. Wait times have soared, and videos of extreme congestion and lines at distribution centers are circulating widely on social media.

Even richly priced spot loads are being rejected by owner-operators if freight brokers cannot verify set appointment times and reasonable detention pay.

“Brokers, this is why I turned down a $4.18 per mile load today,” owner-operator Chad Boblett wrote in the Facebook group Rate Per Mile Masters, posting a cell phone video showing a seemingly never-ending line of trucks outside of a distribution center in Indianapolis. “Screw that crap about you will be worked in with no appointment at the shipper.”

Weekly average wait times across the United States are at 159 minutes, a record level, but keep in mind that FreightWaves SONAR calculates that number based on when trucks enter a facility; the time spent waiting on a street outside of a facility’s geofence will not be recorded as a ‘wait time’ in the SONAR platform. Some markets are struggling with congestion more than others: wait times in Atlanta have reached 277 minutes; Oklahoma City is at 297 minutes; and trucks in Philadelphia are waiting an astonishing 322 minutes to be loaded and unloaded.


    1. Stephen Webster

      Fix insurance company delays like mine and then talk about huge verdicts because of lives being destroyed by delays of 5 or more years 5195239586

  1. Noble1

    NEWS FLASH March 19 2020

    Quote :

    Coronavirus pandemic puts the brakes on the trucking industry

    INDIANAPOLIS — Last week the Department of Transportation relaxed some of the rules on driving hours for truckers if they’re hauling medical or emergency supplies.

    Truckers who aren’t hauling those items, however, are starting to see a decline in business, similar to other industries dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “I heard on the news that everything was shutting down, the truck drivers can’t get any food, you can’t get a shower certain places because they are closing everything down but we’re the ones out here delivering all the good and we can’t be treated any better than this?” Dia Moore, a truck driver said. “That’s not cool.”

    Moore is one off the many truck drivers passing through the crossroads of America. She said she hasn’t had any issues so far on her cross country journey, but she has noticed more trucks parked at truck stops and fewer on the road.
    “Nothing is moving,” Moore said. “So if all the truck drivers just stop, the whole country is going to be stopped because you can’t get anything in.”

    Larisa Williams is an independent dispatcher. She’s been in the trucking industry for nearly 20 years and she’s never seen anything like what coronavirus is doing to the country.

    “I’d say if my trucking friends had gotten together and tried to make a map of what something like this would look like we would’ve been dead wrong,” Williams said. “We wouldn’t have expected this.”

    Williams said right now a trucker’s demand depends on what they are hauling. Drivers hauling non-essential good like cars or lumber would get this response if they call a dispatcher for another load.

    “I’ll look, but good luck, that’s probably one of the ones that’s pretty non-essential right now,” Williams said.

    A driver carrying essential household good like food or toilet paper would get a different response.
    “You’re golden, I’ll find you one,” Williams said.

    End quote !

  2. Noble1

    Speaking of which ,

    Quote :

    Canada’s cross-border truckers can’t get coronavirus coverage

    Major insurance companies won’t guarantee they’ll honor COVID-19 related medical claims by truckers crossing the American border.

    “The insurance companies are not looking hard enough in the mirror,” said Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association on Wednesday.

    “To throw us a curve ball like that, seriously?”

    With the pandemic spreading quickly across the United States the border was closed Tuesday to non-essential travel. It remained open to truckers linking the highly integrated supply chains of Canada and the United States, bringing essentials to stock shelves as both countries enter into various stages of lock-down to slow the spread of COVID-19.

    “There’s no way for insurance companies to handle that burden, they’d go bankrupt.”

    – Anonymous broker

    Meanwhile truckers are weighing the dangers to themselves and their families of crossing into the United States.

    “Our truckers come home but can’t see their families,” said William Gerhardt, owner of Lunenburg-based Gerhardt Trucking, of the self-quarantine many truck drivers enter when returning to Canada.

    “We have one guy who is staying in his truck when he gets back.”

    On Monday Gerhardt called his insurance broker to ensure his workers are covered if they come down with COVID-19 while picking up loads in the United States.

    He was told they weren’t.

    “I was told if (one of our drivers) feels sick he should rush home,” said Gerhardt.

    “That can be easier said than done. We’re relying on these people to provide an essential service. This needs to be sorted out.”

    A Halifax insurance broker spoken to by the Chronicle Herald said the insurance companies he deals with are making an exemption for COVID-19 in their coverage – meaning though other illnesses and accidents that lead to a medical claim are covered, that virus won’t be.

    “There’s no way for insurance companies to handle that burden, they’d go bankrupt,” said the broker, who is not being identified because his business relies on dealing with the large insurance companies.

    “We have a couple of companies that will do special risk, but that’s expensive.”

    The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association has contacted the Insurance Bureau of Canada, warning that this situation needs to be resolved.

    “We’re working on it from a national standpoint but it doesn’t look good,” said Picard.

    A broker at Moncton based Optimal Travel, meanwhile, confirmed Tuesday that they offer plans for individuals travelling for work to the United States that can be used by truckers in place of their group insurance plans. Those plans would cover a COVID-19 illness so long as the driver did not show symptoms before crossing into the United States.

    “We offer single trip as well as annual plans that provide coverage for unlimited number of trips up to the number of days chosen,” said the broker.

    The rates are based on the age of the insured and the maximum length of their visits south of the border.

    Transport Canada did not provide comment.”

    End quote.

    1. Stephen Webster

      We have a total mess with insurance companies in Canada. I was camped out at queens park from Jan 24 to March 16 protesting against insurance companies and the fact that both the Ontario government and the O T A did nothing to help out truck drivers and other homeless people. This C19 is bad and nobody seems to care about people who live and work in cars and trucks. I see many companies who leave truck drivers out to dry. I have seen many people in homeless shelters and loose feet and legs because of insurance delays on claims and the Ontario health care system refusing to cover it under the current government. My house has been condemned for over 70 months after a a windstorm. I know of a group that has van that can carry 2 power wheelchairs or a medical stretcher. They tell out the several calls they got only one small trucking company was willing to donate the cost of going over 500 miles into the U S at $1.20 cd per mile. We need to have a 2 percent surcharge of the gross amount of all cross border freight truck freight for 30 days then drop to 1 percent until the government and the trucking companies come with a long term solution. 5195239586

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John Paul Hampstead

John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.