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DAT: Truckload volumes set January record

Feb. 24, 2023
Spot and contract pricing remain soft as seasonal patterns return.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI) hit new highs for January, indicating solid seasonal demand for truckload services, according to DAT Freight & Analytics.

National average van and reefer rates slipped month-over-month and were down more than 30% compared to January 2022, when pricing peaked historically.

“Volatility gave way to seasonality last month,” said Ken Adamo, DAT’s chief of analytics. “After a gangbusters January last year, truckload rates followed a more typical pattern and volumes were remarkably steady this year.”

At 223, the TVI for van freight was 2.8% higher than in December and up 2.8% year-over-year, DAT said. The refrigerated TVI was 174, 3.0% higher than in December and up 3.6% year-over-year. The flatbed TVI was 218, up 10.7% compared to December and 12.4% higher year-over-year.

Lower fuel prices bring relief

National average spot van and reefer rates dipped in January but have been within a 30-cent range since June 2022.

  • The spot van rate was $2.38 per mile, down 2 cents compared to December, and the average reefer rate slipped 3 cents to $2.78 per mile. The flatbed rate increased by 2 cents to $2.76 per mile.
  • The line-haul rate for van freight averaged $1.83 a mile, up 1 cent month-over-month, and the reefer line-haul rate was unchanged at $2.18 a mile. The flatbed line-haul rate rose 4 cents to $2.09 a mile, the highest monthly average since September.
  • Line-haul rates subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge. In January, the surcharge averaged 55 cents a mile for van freight, 60 cents for reefers and 67 cents for flatbeds.
  • National average fuel surcharge amounts were their lowest since February 2022, when diesel prices spiked.

For carriers, pricing power slipped

Van and reefer load-to-truck ratios declined, meaning less pricing power for carriers:

  • The national average van load-to-truck ratio fell from 3.4 to 3.0, meaning there were 3.0 loads for every van posted to the DAT One marketplace last month.
  • The reefer ratio averaged 4.9, down from 5.7 in December.
  • The flatbed ratio was 12.5, up from 9.8. It was the second-lowest flatbed ratio for January, after 2016 (6.6).

Contract pricing declined

  • The average shipper-to-broker van rate was $2.92 a mile, down 4 cents compared to December and 7 cents lower year-over-year.
  • The average contract reefer rate was $3.22 a mile, down 2 cents and 7 cents higher year-over-year, while the average flatbed rate was unchanged at $3.53 a mile, up 19 cents year-over-year.
  • The gap between the average contract and spot rates narrowed in January. The contract rate was 54 cents higher than the spot rate in January, compared to 56 cents in December. The contract reefer rate was 43 cents higher, while the contract flatbed rate was 78 cents higher.
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