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DAT: Freight volumes rise ahead of holidays

Nov. 17, 2023
“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,” DAT Freight’s chief analyst reports.

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.

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