Refrigerated truckload volumes increased in October ahead of the busy holiday freight season, but truckload rates “remained sluggish,” according to new data from DAT Freight & Analytics.
Dry van volumes also enjoyed modest gains last month, DAT reported.
The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI), an indicator of loads moved in a month, increased for van and reefer freight:
- Van TVI: 263, up 3.5% compared to September
- Refrigerated TVI: 196, up 4.3%
- Flatbed TVI: 245, down 3.2%
“The van TVI was 2.3% higher compared to last October, the first year-over-year increase in a monthly TVI since September 2021,” Ken Adamo, DAT chief of analytics, said in a news release. “It’s a positive sign for freight carriers and brokers, but the expectation is for a seasonal bump as opposed to a sustained recovery of volumes and pricing.”
Load-to-truck ratios slipped
DAT’s national average load-to-truck ratios wavered in October, with the van and reefer ratios dropping to their lowest points since April:
- Van ratio: 2.1, down from 2.8 in September
- Reefer ratio: 2.9, down from 3.4
- Flatbed ratio: 6.3, down from 6.9
Load-to-truck ratios measure the number of loads posted to the DAT One marketplace relative to the number of trucks and are a simple indicator of demand for truckload services. Changes in the ratio typically anticipate changes in the pricing environment.
Line-haul rates extended their downward trend
Spot line-haul rates, which subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge, for all three equipment types declined for the fifth straight month:
- Line-haul van rate: $1.55 per mile, down 1 cent
- Line-haul reefer rate: $1.87 a mile, down 5 cents
- Line-haul flatbed rate: $1.83, down 2 cents
DAT’s broker-to-carrier benchmark spot rates also decreased. The spot van rate averaged $2.09 per mile, down 2 cents compared to September, and the reefer rate dropped 6 cents to $2.46 per mile. The flatbed rate was $2.48 a mile, 3 cents lower month-over-month.
Spot pricing remained well below year-ago levels when the benchmark line-haul van rate was $1.77 a mile, the reefer rate was $2.08 and the flatbed rate was $2.07.
Benchmark rates for contracted freight declined as well. The DAT contract van rate decreased 2 cents to $2.57 per mile, the reefer rate fell 4 cents to $2.97 and the flatbed rate dropped 7 cents to $3.13.
The gap between spot and contract van rates has remained at 48 cents for three months. That’s 15 cents a mile less than in October 2022, when the average spot rate was $2.43 and the contract rate was $3.06.