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5 Factors that Impact Dry Van Freight Rates

Good for a variety of shipping needs, dry vans are one of the most common trailers on the road today. While not climate controlled, dry vans are easily secured and still protect goods from the elements. Shippers choose different types of dry vans depending on the cargo being shipped. Sometimes they need more than one truckload for shipping, but often they have less than a truckload (LTL). The rates for each type of load vary a great deal due to a number of factors.

dry van rates

Here are five of the factors that impact dry van rates, and why each one matters.

National average dry van rates

While dry van rates vary a great deal by carrier and location, there are some national averages you should be aware of. These rates are usually represented in cost per mile.

On average, the Midwest has the highest rates per mile, and the Northeast has the lowest. This average rate is largely determined by supply and demand (how much freight there is to haul compared to the amount of truck space available) along with factors like fuel costs and truck capacity.

Of course, there are more specific factors that may affect dry van rates in your area.

Factors that impact dry van freight rates

Most of the factors influencing dry van shipping rates fall into five primary categories. For any business in the trucking or shipping realm that handles or possesses inventory, freight rates are one of your most common and often fluctuating expenses.

1. Delivery distance

The farther you need to ship your freight, the higher the cost. But mileage alone isn’t the only factor in the delivery distance. Where you’re shipping to and from also makes a difference.

In general, it’s less expensive to ship in established shipping lanes between major cities and hubs. Carrying shipments to or from more rural, out-of-the-way areas costs more. 

2. Supply and demand

There is a basic shipping formula for supply and demand: Divide the number of incoming containers to a given area by the truck capacity and the number of trucks available. The fewer drivers and trucks available, the higher your freight shipping costs will be.

These costs can be seasonal as well. For example, in the Midwest and other agricultural areas, shipping fresh produce, especially in the summer, can eat up a lot of trucking capacity very quickly. While some industries can plan ahead to work around seasonal challenges, it’s not always possible.

The key is to know and understand the trucking seasons and plan accordingly. One good way for both shippers and carriers to plan is to contract rates and loads ahead of time. This ensures that even when things are busy, your freight is already integrated into a schedule.

3. Freight type

Speaking of seasonal freight, one of the other factors in dry van freight costs is the type of freight you’re shipping.

For example, freight that requires special handling or comes with special delivery instructions will cost more to ship. Those special circumstances might also be related to the destination. The more difficult your freight is to handle and the more time it will take the driver, the more the carrier has to charge you. Everything from the fragility of cargo to how it’s packaged (whether it fits on a standard pallet or not) affects freight rates.

What we’re really talking about here is freight class. There are currently 18 different freight classes ranging from 50 to 500. The higher the class, the more expensive the freight is to ship. You can determine shipping class by learning more about National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) codes. But your freight broker can also help you choose the proper classification.

4. Weight, density, and freight rates

It’s pretty easy to understand why freight that weighs more costs more to ship. Heavier freight causes trucks to use more fuel, so carriers pass that cost on to shippers.

But density is different. Calculate density by factoring in both the weight of your shipment and the amount of space it takes up in a trailer. The more compact your shipment, the less your freight charges will be. For example, 400 pounds on one pallet will be less expensive to ship than that same 400 pounds on two pallets.

When it comes to reducing shipping charges, it’s just as vital to package your shipment efficiently to take up as little space as possible as it is to make sure it’s not overweight. 

dry van truck

5. Fuel costs

Shipping rates also vary with fuel prices. The more fuel costs, the higher the freight rate. However, there is more to it than the price you see for diesel at the pump. Fuel surcharges and taxes change by region and state.

Fuel cost is another reason that your destination matters. If your goods cross state lines or travel inside certain shipping lanes, the cost of fuel and the associated taxes and fees will make a big difference in how much you are charged. It’s one of the key factors in dry van freight rates, and it changes all the time.

Accessorial Charges

Accessorials are charges related to any special condition that goes beyond shipping freight from dock to dock. They can include needing liftgates, unloading and loading with a forklift, and appointment or specific time-window deliveries.

The level of inconvenience for the driver and how much additional time they have to spend at the shipping destination will affect the dry van freight rate you pay.

“Extra shipping services”

When you schedule shipping, you will need to specify if you’re shipping to non-commercial areas such as construction sites, convention centers, and residences, or to limited-access areas like strip malls, military bases, or other specialized destinations.

Factors like these will almost always result in higher freight charges because they take the driver more time and might delay them from getting back on the road quickly.

Use a load board to find the best dry van rates.

How do you find the best dry van rates? Truckstop.com has dry van load boards to help you find the best dry van freight rates. Load boards can help you ship your freight faster and move your business further ahead. 

Contact us for a demo today!

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