DAT Freight Index: Spot TL Freight Activity Signals Economic Growth

PORTLAND, Ore. – Spot truckload freight availability in May reached its highest point since September 2015, increasing 7.3 percent compared to April and 63 percent year over year, reported DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest on-demand exchange for spot truckload freight.

DAT Freight Index May 2017A steady increase in van and refrigerated (“reefer”) freight volume, combined with higher rates and load-to-truck ratios, are signs that “we are leaving the freight recession behind in the rearview mirror,” said Mark Montague, DAT industry pricing analyst.

Van and refrigerated freight activity led the way in May, with van volume gaining 16 percent compared to April and reefer freight volume up 19 percent. This indicates higher demand for trucks to move dry goods and agricultural products before the start of the summer, Montague said. Flatbed activity slipped 2.4 percent month over month, in line with seasonal norms.

Total freight volumes beat prior-year comparisons for the tenth consecutive month. Compared to May 2016, van load availability jumped 86 percent, reefers increased 87 percent, and flatbeds added 56 percent.

Amid higher demand for truckload capacity, spot rates were higher for all three equipment types.

Average spot van and refrigerated rates both increased in May, with the van rate gaining 2 cents to $1.69 per mile compared to April and 15 cents year over year. The reefer rate was $2.02 per mile, an 8-cent increase compared to April and up 13 cents compared to May 2016.

The flatbed rate was $2.10 per mile, up 3 cents month over month and 8 cents year over year.

Rates continued to rise for all three trailer types in the first week of June. Montague expects van and reefer pricing and volume to be elevated through the Fourth of July weekend, when freight activity typically begins to taper off.

Established in 1978, DAT operates a network of load boards serving intermediaries and carriers across North America. For more than a decade DAT has published its Freight Index, which is representative of the dynamic spot market.

Reference rates are the averages, by equipment type, based on $33 billion of actual transactions between freight brokers and carriers, as recorded in DAT RateView. Reference rates per mile include fuel surcharges, but not accessorials or other fees. Beginning in January 2015, the DAT Freight Index was rebased so that 100 on the Index represents the average monthly volume in the year 2000. Additional trends and analysis are available at DAT Trendlines.