Grain Trucking Indicators
A vital link in the grain transportation system, trucks ship grain from producers to multiple destinations for a range of industries. Whether for an entire or partial route (with transfers to or from other modes), trucks deliver grain from producers to grain elevators, ethanol plants, processors, and feedlots.
This page provides an overview of key indicators in grain truck transportation and shows visualizations on grain truck availability, use, and rates for key regions in the United States shown in the map onthe right.
Truck Availability and Demand
The grain truck use index reflects grain shippers’ demand for trucks. It compares truck use in the current quarter to the same quarter last year. Current use is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 (lowest to highest), compared to the same quarter last year. The grain truck use index commonly reflects changes in seasonal and export demand for grain.
Similarly, the grain truck availability index represents the ease of finding and booking trucking services to meet demand for shipping grain. This index tracks the perceived ease of hiring a truck in the current quarter, compared to the same quarter last year, as reported by grain elevators. Current availability—or ease of hiring trucking services—is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 (very easy to very difficult), compared to the same quarter last year.
The charts below show patterns in quarterly availability and demand for grain trucks, both nationally and for key U.S. regions.
Truck rates are a key component of agricultural transportation costs, affecting profit margins for grain producers, as well as trucking companies’ viability. Besides fundamental supply and demand conditions, myriad other factors determine rates for grain hopper trucks, including basis, export market perspectives, fuel price, inventory, storage costs, back haul availability, and historical rates. Truck capacity is booked either by spot rate or contract rate. The spot rate is the market rate, while the contract rate is a forward contract and offers the advantage of knowing the future freight price.
The first chart below shows quarterly grain truck contract rates nationally and for key regions. The second chart shows weekly spot rates for 13 major routes that transport the major grains and oilseed—i.e., corn, wheat, and soybeans.
The 13 major routes covered are: Boise, ID, to La Grande, OR; Omaha, NE, to Kansas City, MO; Davenport, IA, to Peoria, IL; Des Moines, IA, to Davenport, IA; Des Moines, IA, to Omaha, NE; Oklahoma City, OK, to Dallas, TX; Hastings, NE, to Omaha, NE; Fargo, ND, to Minneapolis, MN; Springfield, IL, to Beardstown, IL; Springfield, IL, to Chesterfield, MO; Mason, OH, to Chicago, IL; Sioux Falls, SD, to Kansas City, MO; and Memphis, TN, to Atlanta, GA. The rates are average rates for trips that originated and terminated within 150 miles of the origin and destination cities. These routes were selected based on the corridor analysis in USDA's The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture report, which analyzed the top 5 percent of routes that carry the largest shares of grains and oilseeds among other commodities.