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Heat, rain influencing crop production, spot rates

Shifting weather patterns will be putting added stress on the nation’s crops, which could result in more spot rate volatility for shippers and haulers in the week’s ahead.

The nation is about to heat up starting this weekend, and that could drive more volatility to already rising spot rates for agricultural haulers and shippers.

According to weather analytics firm Riskpulse, record-breaking temperatures are expected from the Northern Plains to the central Midwest, starting this weekend and heading into next week. With that heat will also be a lack of rain, as the Central U.S. will see a drier pattern, which is “beneficial for the corn and soybeans as the warmer temps accelerate growth and the drier conditions allow planting to finish up,” the firm said. “The drier conditions are also beneficial for the winter wheat maturationn and harvest in the Plains and the Midwest.”

The warm air and drier weather could potentially disrupt Northern Plains crops growth, though, as the weather pattern can affect the growth of spring wheat, small grains, and sugar beets.

Citing its model guidance, Riskpulse is reporting that the next two weeks across Europe and Russia will be slightly drier, which could affect crop production overseas and bears watching for potential impact on imports and exports.

The shifting weather patterns will put added pressure on volatile spot rates, which are already surging nationally, according to DAT’s latest Trendlines report. That firm also said that load-to-truck ratios are on the rise.

Vansreefers and flatbeds all saw their national averages increase last week $1.73, $2.12, and $.174, respectively. The four-day workweek due to Memorial Day resulted in fewer load and truck posts on DAT’s load boards, yet the van load-to-truck ration hit its highest level since 2014 and is 109% higher than May 2016. Week-over-week, the ratio climbed 22% and it was up 7.8% in May over April of this year.

 DAT Trendlines national spot rates for the week of June 3. ( Click to enlarge )
DAT Trendlines national spot rates for the week of June 3. ( Click to enlarge )

Rates were expected to climb again this week thanks to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck. A focus this year was on cargo security, so flatbed roads could be especially volatile.

Looking at the outlook for the rest of the summer, Riskpulse suggests that the Midwest and East (MME) will see warner than normal temperatures.

“Over time, the far southern U.S. (southern Texas to Florida and the southern portion of the SE) will have temps average out to be within normal levels,” Riskpulse says. “The anomalous warmth, and in many areas it will be significant, will be driven by northern based ridging at upper levels across the lower 48. This upper level pattern will drive EML’s (elevated mixed layers) at the surface to move from the central Rockies across the northern U.S. These ‘bubbles of heat’ will be rolling across the northern U.S. with the second [one] so far this month moving from west to east across the northern U.S. from this upcoming weekend thru next week.”

The firm added that a third wave of heat is showing up in the longer-range forecasting and will travel across the country in late June.

 Anticipated rainfall for the United States from June 13-18. ( Graphic: Riskpulse )
Anticipated rainfall for the United States from June 13-18. ( Graphic: Riskpulse )

“The general pathway of these EML’s is a general I-80 track across the nation,” Riskpulse adds. “All in all, the 3 EML’s this month will produce a warm June with elevated cooling demand especially in the central northern U.S.”

Predicted rainfall in Montana and Dakotas over the next 10 days is putting stress on crops in those regions, although the stress in Montana is easing, which will receive the bulk of the expected 2 inches of rain.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.