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Truckload volumes rebound while spot prices hold

June 20, 2023
Both truckload volume and capacity for May and the first week of June rose, rates stayed mostly stable, with some analysts saying they've bottomed out in the current cycle.

Truckload freight volumes rose slightly in May before jumping the first week of June, though spot rates were mainly stable for a second straight month, according to industry load board analysts.

Truckstop and FTR, in a joint release, indicated that total load activity rose 10.1% the week ending June 9 after it had fallen 14.1% during the week of Memorial Day.

For May, DAT Freight & Analytics’ used its Truckload Volume Index (TVI), an indicator of loads moved during a given month, to illustrate increased volumes for van, refrigerated, and flatbed freight:

  • Van TVI: 220, up 5% from April
  • Reefer TVI: 164, a 5% increase month-over-month
    • Flatbed TVI: 258, up 7% from April

      Month-over-month, the van and reefer TVI numbers rebounded from their lowest points since February 2021. Truckload volumes typically decline from April to May, but they increased for the first time since 2019.

      “This was the second-best May on record for van and reefer freight, according to our TVI,” Ken Adamo, DAT chief of analytics, said in a news release. “There was demand to move seasonal goods at a time when the truck supply on the spot market tightened due to the International Roadcheck inspection event, the Memorial Day holiday, and general carrier attrition.”

      The week ending June 9 saw a larger influx of trucks than loads—16.5% compared to 10.1%. In May, National average van and reefer load-to-truck ratios rose overall:

      • Van ratio: 2.5, up from 1.9 in April, meaning there were 2.5 loads for every truck on the DAT One marketplace
      • Reefer ratio: 3.6, up from 2.7
        • Flatbed ratio: 11.7, down from 12.1

          National average broker-to-carrier spot rates were steady compared to April, according to DAT:

          • Spot van rate: $2.05 per mile, down 1 cent
          • Spot reefer rate: $2.44 a mile, up 3 cents
          •  Spot flatbed rate: $2.65 a mile, down 2 cents

          Spot rates saw only a 0.5% fall week-over-week by the end of June 9. Van segments typically see fairly stable spot rates during the first two weeks of June in advance of what usually is a strong couple of weeks late in the month, according to Truckstop and FTR, adding, that rates have likely bottomed out in the current cycle.

          See also: ‘Rolling recession’ in U.S. economy slows trucking’s recovery

          Monthly national average line-haul rates, which subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge, increased for the first time this year for all three equipment types. The average van line-haul rate was $1.61 a mile, up 2 cents compared to April; the reefer line-haul rate jumped 7 cents to $1.96 a mile; and the flatbed line-haul rate rose 2 cents to $2.12 a mile.

          Contract rates decline

          National average rates for contracted freight declined compared to April:

          • Contract van rate: $2.62 per mile, down 6 cents
          • Contract reefer rate: $2.91 a mile, down 10 cents
            • Contract flatbed rate: $3.30 a mile, down 3 cents

              The average rate for contract van and reefer freight has fallen for seven consecutive months.

              “Shippers are taking advantage of abundant truckload capacity to establish new contract rates at substantial savings compared to 2022, and to make strategic use of the spot market,” Adamo said. “We expect these trends to continue through the end of the year.”

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