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Why Are Freight Rates So High? (And What You Can Do About It)

Resources > Why Are Freight Rates So High? (And What You Can Do About It)
Unless you're brand new to shipping freight (or living under a rock), you've likely seen freight rates rise steadily. Learn about what's causing the spike and what you can do about it.
Published: August 2, 2021
Last Modified: August 28, 2023
Author: Ask Truckload

Shippers have a lot of questions as 2021 rolls into 2022. One topic on the minds of many: Why are freight rates so high? Freight costs are skyrocketing and shippers need solutions now. It might even be a full-blown freight crisis. 

Wondering why freight rates are so high? Many factors are contributing to rising freight prices. Tight truck capacity, an ongoing driver shortage, rising fuel prices, and industry-wide struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic are driving shipping costs through the roof. 

Data from the Journal of Commerce indicate freight costs are up 15% in 2021 over already-high rates in 2017. Let’s dive into the reasons why freight rates are so high and what you can do about it right now.

Why Has Shipping Become So Expensive?


It’s undeniable. Costs for LTL and FTL freight are on the rise. You’ve likely seen them creep up over the past few years, and will probably continue as 2022 rolls around. 

Just how expensive has freight shipping become? DAT Trendlines reported in July 2021:

  • Loads are up 101.5% in June  2021 over June 2020
  • Fuel costs are up 36.5% over in June 2021 over June 2020
  • Van load-to-truck figures are up 57.8% June 2021 over June 2020
  • Flatbed load-to-truck numbers are up 169.3% in June 2021 over June 2021
  • Van spot rates are up 47.1% in June 2021 over June 2020

The numbers above don’t lie. It costs a lot of money to move freight and those numbers are just going up higher and higher. But why has shipping become so expensive?

Shipping company rates are going up because there are fewer trucks available to move freight, fewer drivers are available, and fuel prices and surcharges are rising. Additionally, the transportation industry was one of the sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery has been difficult for many. All of these things culminate in high freight shipping rates.

Just How Much Does Freight Shipping Cost Today?


Shipping rates vary by location. This is because truck capacity -- the number of trucks available to haul shipments in need of transport -- also varies regionally. Let’s look at some numbers:

As of July 13, 2021, dry van freight shipping rates per averaged:

  • $2.85 per mile in the West Coast region
  • $2.79 per mile in the Southeast region
  • $2.77 per mile in the Midwest region
  • $2.56 per mile in the South-Central region
  • $2.30 per mile in the Northeast Region

As a whole, dry van spot rates are up 47.1% nationwide over last year. The data is staggering and shows nothing today’s shippers don’t know. Simply put, shipping freight is expensive.

There might be a few workarounds for high freight costs, though. Let’s look at what you as a shipper can do about high freight rates.

What Can I Do About High Freight Rates?


There’s no denying that freight rates are going up, but you’re not totally helpless when it comes to increasing costs. Implementing a few tried-and-true strategies might help you reduce the bottom line you see on your spot quotes when you need to get goods on the go.

What can I do about high freight costs? Consider keeping the following strategies in mind when working with a freight broker or carrier partner.

Ship on Off-Peak Days

Shipping rates have ebb and flow, just like everything else in the business world. Consider working with your broker or carrier partner to move freight on slower or off-peak days to avoid high freight rates. 

Why does shipping on off-peak days help you avoid high freight costs? For one, you’re broker or carrier partner will likely have more trucks available to move your load on off days. This increased capacity can help keep costs lower.

Combine LTL Shipments with Other Shippers

LTL freight is expensive but necessary for many small businesses. You might be able to save on freight costs by combining shipments through retail consolidation. 

What happens when you participate in retail consolidation shipping? Businesses that move products on the same lane go in on a full truckload together and split the cost. This can save businesses money by avoiding LTL freight. This can be particularly helpful when businesses use the same warehouse or fulfillment center.

Seek Strategic Partnership with Your Broker or Carrier

It might be tempting to shop around for the best rates with each shipment. You might save in the short run, but not overtime. When you ship consistently with the same broker or carrier, you’ll like to build a strategic partnership.

What is a strategic partnership? This kind of business relationship is mutually beneficial. Your broker or carrier partner will be willing to go the extra mile for you. They might find backhauling opportunities for your shipment to keep costs down or help you negotiate better rates. They might find volume discounts or even offer assistance with capacity when times are tight.

The benefits of shipping with a strategic partner abound. You’ll save over time and find other great advantages.

These are just a few solutions that can help you deal with high freight rates in 2021. We’ve put together an even more inclusive list of 15 Easy Ways to Reduce Freight Rates to help you keep your shipping budget in the black.

How Do I Get a Fair Spot Quote Right Now?


Freight shipping rates can vary from day to day. A spot quote is a freight shipping quote that applies at a certain spot in time. You might seek a spot quote when you’re getting a rough estimate on how much it might cost to move something or when you need to ship freight urgently.

How do you get a fair spot quote? The best way to make sure your spot quote is fair and won’t vary from what’s on the final invoice is to be honest and upfront with your broker or carrier partner. You’ll also want to have all of the pertinent information at the ready.

You’re broker or carrier partner will have all kinds of questions when you reach out for a spot quote. For example, you’ll need to know a few details, such as:

  • The commodity
  • Pickup and delivery zip codes
  • If the address is business or residential
  • Whether or not a loading dock is availble
  • The weight and dimensions of the shipment
  • Preferred pickup and delivery times
  • And other details

Providing your broker or carrier partner with all the right information will ensure you get a fair spot quote.

Find Relief From Rising Freight Rates 

There’s no denying that freight rates are high right now. However, with a better understanding of the reasons behind the rising prices and a little knowledge of what you can do about it, you’ll find it easy to save on freight and keep your shipping budget in the black.

One way you can plan for high freight rates is to work with a consistent, strategic partner. USA Truckload Shipping, powered by R+L Global Logistics, is ready to go to work for you. Our esteemed agents have your back and will go out of their way to find capacity and ensure you get a fair spot quote.

What are you waiting for? Reach out to USA Truckload Shipping now for a hassle-free freight quote. Fill out our online freight rate quote form now or give us a call at 866-35307178 for immediate assistance. We’re here to help you understand why are freight rates so high and help you avoid paying any more than necessary.

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