High winds slamming large eastern US freight markets (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer gong down highway with "High Winds Ahead" road sign.

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes killed nearly 20 people in the South on Sunday, also knocking out power and flooding streets. At the same time, heavy late season snowfall hit parts of the nation’s heartland.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Monday, April 13, 10 a.m. EDT

The threat for tornadoes today stretches from the Mid-Atlantic to Florida, mainly this morning. Damaging straight-line winds, large hail and flash flooding are also likely in some spots. But even after the storms end in these areas, as well as where the storms have already faded, high winds will linger behind the frontal boundaries responsible for setting off the destructive weather.

Gusts of 40 to 60 mph will occasionally slam a large part of the country east of the Mississippi, howling across the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. Drivers will have to deal with dangerous crosswinds on dozens of interstate highways from the Great Lakes to the Gulf and East coasts. The risk of blowovers will be high in some areas, with headwinds slowing down drivers in other areas.

Impact on freight

The high winds will impact freight movement in several major markets, including Harrisburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania; Joliet, Illinois; Elizabeth, New Jersey; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Columbus, Ohio. According to the latest FreightWaves SONAR data (updated this morning) these markets rank third, fifth, sixth, eighth, 10th and 11th, respectively, in terms of outbound teder volumes. Together, they account for 15% of the nation’s outbound volume; Harrisburg alone accounts for 3.3%.

Also in the high winds threat zone is the high-volume Atlanta-to-Charlotte, North Carolina lane, which is becoming increasingly unbalanced. The load balance gap is widening between these two markets.

The SONAR Headhaul Index excluding 100-mile loads (HAUL100) continues to trend higher out of Atlanta through mid-April, increasing from 2 to 34. The Headhaul index, a measure of market volumes, is the difference between a market’s outbound volume and inbound volume. Positive HAUL values indicate markets that have more outbound freight available vs inbound freight. Carriers typically prefer these markets because they have the most loads available for pick up.


The Charlotte HAULEX100 value increased only moderately from -72 to -49, widening the gap between the two markets. Atlanta is the larger of the two markets, and the largest in the country, accounting for 4.5% of all U.S. outbound loads compared to 1.78% for Charlotte.

This means brokers should keep margins higher in this lane as the willingness of carriers to enter Charlotte will likely diminish. They should cover this lane early in the day when they get a load.

Carriers should keep rates higher from Atlanta to Charlotte, i.e., treat this lane like a strong headhaul. Atlanta has improved more than Charlotte from an outbound load perspective year-over-year. Just be aware that drivers will have to deal with very windy weather today, with a wind advisory in place for the Charlotte area until 4 p.m. EDT.

Shippers should expect higher rates from Atlanta to Charlotte. Charlotte is much more consumption-driven than Atlanta, with much more inbound than outbound freight. Increase lead times on these loads.

Have a great day! Please stay healthy and be careful out there!

FreightWaves Market Experts Zach Strickland, Donny Gilbert and Henry Byers contributed to this article.