DAT Truckload Volume Index: April truckload rates unmoved by higher volumes

BEAVERTON, Ore., May 24, 2024 — Spot truckload van and refrigerated freight rates declined for the third straight month in April despite a modest rise in freight volumes, said DAT Freight & Analytics, which operates the DAT One online freight marketplace and DAT iQ data analytics service.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI), an indicator of loads moved in a month, increased for all three equipment types compared to March:

  • Van TVI: 278, up 7.3%
  • Refrigerated TVI: 213, up 5.4%
  • Flatbed TVI: 304, up 8.2%

The flatbed TVI was higher for the fifth consecutive month.

“Increases in April load volumes were not sufficient to offset available truckload capacity,” said DAT Chief of Analytics Ken Adamo. “If we don’t see upward pressure on truckload rates in May, when produce and other seasonal freight usually hits the spot market, then we’re probably looking at a broader discussion about the economy.”

Van and reefer rates declined again
National average spot van and reefer rates fell for the third straight month while flatbed rates showed signs of strength.

  • The van rate averaged $1.99 per mile, down 1 cent compared to March and 7 cents lower year over year.
  • The reefer rate dipped 3 cents to $2.32 a mile, down 9 cents year over year.
  • The flatbed rate rose 2 cents to $2.53 a mile, down 14 cents year over year.

The average line-haul van rate was $1.53 per mile, the reefer rate was $1.82, and the flatbed rate was $1.98. Line-haul rates subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge, which was 46 cents per mile for vans, 50 cents for reefers, and 55 cents for flatbeds in April, unchanged from March .

Contract rates slipped
Pricing for contracted truckload van and reefer freight fell for the third straight month, mirroring weaker spot rates. The contract van rate lost 2 cents to $2.45 a mile and the reefer rate fell 1 cent to $2.83. The average contract flatbed rate gained 3 cents to $3.18.

The margin between spot and contract van rates was 45 cents, down a penny. The gap was 51 cents for reefers, up 2 cents, and 65 cents for flatbeds, up 1 cent. A lower spread typically indicates more pricing power for motor carriers.

”Demand for trucks will certainly pick up in May and June,” Adamo said. “The question is whether the seasonal gains will be sustainable throughout the year. As we saw in April, small increases in volume aren’t enough to offset the amount of truckload capacity in the market. Shippers remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to pricing.”

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. A baseline of 100 equals the number of loads moved in January 2015, as recorded in DAT RateView, a truckload pricing database and analysis tool with rates paid on an average of 3 million loads per month.

DAT benchmark spot rates are derived from invoice data for hauls of 250 miles or more with a pickup date during the month reported. Line-haul rates subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge.