DAT Truckload Volume Index: February spot rates dropped sharply; contract rates increased

BEAVERTON, Ore., March 26 — Spot truckload rates gave up three months’ worth of gains in February as demand for trucking services slipped to more typical seasonal levels, reported 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, was lower for van and refrigerated (“reefer”) 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,” said Ken Adamo, DAT chief of analytics, noting that 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 dropped sharply
The national average broker-to-carrier spot van and reefer rates fell sharply in February. 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 made 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.

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.

National average load-to-truck ratios for February were not available at the time of this release. Load-to-truck ratios measure the number of loads posted to the DAT One marketplace relative to the number of trucks.