DAT: Spot truckload rates hit new highs in January

Van and reefer rates are up nearly $1 a mile year over year

PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 17, 2022—Spot truckload freight rates extended their run to new highs in January, said DAT Freight & Analytics, which operates the industry’s largest truckload freight marketplace and the DAT iQ data analytics service.

The prices to move dry and refrigerated (“reefer”) freight on the spot market increased for the eighth straight month as a national average and are nearly $1 a mile higher year over year. The van rate averaged $3.11 per mile in January, an 11-cent increase over December, while the average reefer rate was $3.59 per mile, up 12 cents month over month.

Spot truckload rates are negotiated on a per-load basis and paid to the carrier by a freight broker. DAT’s rate analysis is based on $120 billion in annualized freight transactions.

DAT’s Truckload Volume Index (TVI) was 229 last month, a 3.8% decline compared to December. This is the highest-ever TVI for January and a 15% increase year over year. The number of loads posted to the DAT One load board network increased 37.4% compared to December and 104.7% versus January 2021.

“Load-to-truck ratios on the DAT load board network hit record highs for January, a sign of exceptionally strong demand for truckload services,” said Ken Adamo, DAT Chief of Analytics. “While the number of loads moved gradually eased throughout the month, tight capacity and disruptions due to winter weather and COVID-19 helped push rates to historic levels.”

Rates up almost $1 a mile compared to last year

  • At $3.11 per mile, the national average spot rate for van freight increased 11 cents compared to December and was 99 cents higher year over year.
  • The national average rate for reefer loads on the spot market increased 12 cents to $3.59 per mile, up 98 cents compared to January 2021.
  • The average spot flatbed rate rose 6 cents to $3.14 a mile in January. The spot flatbed rate has been above $3 a mile for nine consecutive months and is 64 cents higher year over year.

Load-to-truck ratios set records for January

  • The national average van load-to-truck ratio was 9.3, up from 6.5 in December, meaning there were 9.3 available loads for every available van on the DAT network. The van load-to-truck ratio has increased from December to January only once before, from December 2017 (5.1) to January 2018 (6.0).
  • The reefer load-to-truck ratio was 20.4, up from 14.0 in December and 8.2 in January 2021.
  • The flatbed ratio spiked to 86.7 from 51.1 in December, a 69.6% increase. It was 47.9 in January 2021.

Contract van and reefer rates increase

  • The national average shipper-to-broker contract van rate was $2.98 per mile, up 4 cents month over month. The average contract reefer rate edged 3 cents higher to $3.16 a mile and the average contract rate for flatbed freight was down 1 cent to $3.33 a mile.
  • The national average diesel fuel surcharge was 41 cents a mile for van freight, a seven-year high.

About the DAT Truckload Volume Index

The DAT Truckload Volume Index reflects the change in the number of loads with a pickup date during that month; the actual index number is normalized each month to accommodate any new data sources without distortion. Baseline of 100 equals the number of loads moved in January 2015, as recorded in DAT RateView, a database of rates paid on an average of 3 million loads per month.

DAT national average spot rates are derived from RateView and include only over-the-road lanes with lengths of haul of 250 miles or more. Spot rates represent the payments made to carriers by freight brokers, third-party logistics providers and other transportation buyers.