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FTR: California fires not hurting freight too much

So far, firm says freight volumes are “holding up much better” compared to the Sonoma northern California fires back in October.

The wildfires currently raging across southern California are not affecting freight movements in and out of the Golden state, according to analysis by research firm FTR Transportation Intelligence and its partner – at least not yet.

“The fact that we are in the midst of the holiday and end-of-year freight season causes us to view any results with a skeptical eye,” noted Jonathan Starks, FTR’s COO, in a statement. “We are early in this analysis; however, volumes so far are holding up much better than during the Sonoma event.”

The “Sonoma event” refers to the highly destructive Sonoma fire that occurred in northern California back in October of this year. During that fire, outbound volumes for dry van freight in California took a significant hit but were close to being back to “normal” within three weeks, FTR said.

The firm added that outbound dry van rates were below the pre-Sonoma fire level back in October for at least four weeks and were well below normal seasonal gains in pricing for that time of year.

However, in the case of the southern fires now burning up southern California, inbound rates were likely up to incentivize truckers that knew it would be more difficult to get a load coming out.

“California outbound van volumes look to be at a ‘normal’ level for early December,” Starks said. “Part of the answer may lie in the fact that produce moves are going very strong right now and they are generally outside of the immediate Los Angeles region.”

In addition, he added that port activity is staying healthy and most – if not all – of that activity is away from the fires. Extra miles may be needed to stay away from the affected areas, but overall freight activity is holding up.

On the rate side, outbound spot van rates have held up slightly better than normal for California during the early December holiday push, Stark noted – which is in contrast to the “modest hit” outbound rates suffered during the Sonoma fire back in October.

“Although there are clearly disruptions in the L.A. area to the trucking circuit, the overall impact to California freight has been limited and looks set to quickly return to normal,” Starks said.

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