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DAT: Contract rates increase in February

March 28, 2024
Spot rates drop sharply in February, but contracted truckload freight rises across all three equipment types, including refrigerated

Spot truckload rates gave up three months’ worth of gains in February as demand for trucking services slipped to more typical seasonal levels, according to new data from DAT Freight & Analytics.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI), an indicator of loads moved in a month, was lower for van and refrigerated freight, while flatbed volume increased compared to January:

  • Van TVI: 245, down 4%
  • Refrigerated TVI: 193, down 8%
  • Flatbed TVI: 242, up 3%

“Truckload freight volumes and spot rates settled back to what we expect from February,” Ken Adamo, DAT chief of analytics, said in a news release, while also noting the month had two fewer shipping days than January. “The decline felt abrupt and steep given January’s relatively active spot market.”

Van and reefer rates drop sharply

The national average broker-to-carrier spot van and reefer rates fell sharply in February, DAT reported. The van rate was $2.07 per mile, down 7 cents compared to January, while the reefer rate plunged 14 cents to $2.43 a mile. The flatbed rate rose 2 cents to $2.49 a mile. Year over year, average spot rates were down 17 cents for vans, 16 cents for reefers, and 21 cents for flatbeds.

Line-haul rates, which subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge, were lower for all three equipment types:

  • The line-haul van rate averaged $1.60 per mile, down 11 cents compared to January and 11 cents lower year over year
  • The average reefer rate was $1.92 a mile, down 18 cents month over month and 9 cents lower year over year
  • The average line-haul flatbed rate was $1.93, down 2 cents month over month and 14 cents lower year over year

Contract rates make gains

Rates for contracted truckload freight increased for all three equipment types, a sign that pricing power between carriers and shippers is coming into balance. The DAT iQ benchmark contract van rate rose 2 cents to $2.51 a mile. The reefer rate increased 1 cent to $2.89 while the flatbed rate gained 4 cents to $3.14.

The margin between spot and contract van rates increased for the first time in 12 months. It was 44 cents, 11 cents higher than in January.

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