DAT Truckload Volume Index: Spot Market Rates Surge Across All Equipment Types as Economic Demand Returns

PORTLAND, Ore.,— Spot market rates and volumes surge across all equipment types as economic demand returns to seasonal trends, according to DAT Freight & Analytics, which operates the industry’s largest online marketplace for spot truckload freight. Van, reefer and flatbed numbers all ended up positive month over month, with rates and volumes trending upwards.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index, a measure of dry van, refrigerated (“reefer”) and flatbed loads moved by truckload carriers, rose 13.7 percent from last month, a 9.4 percent increase over June 2019.

“The surge we’re seeing in rates and volumes are consistent with summer trends, but consumer habits continue to be impacted by COVID-19,” said Ken Adamo, Chief of Analytics at DAT. “For instance, there’s been an early surge in demand for pressure-treated lumber, as people tackle home improvement projects. But growers are contending with soft restaurant demand, as states reopen at different speeds with different rules.”

Nationally, the June load-to-truck ratio for vans nearly doubled for the second month in a row to 3.5, up from April lows of 1.0. It was up 12.9 percent from this time last year as well, indicative of a market with more freight than trucks posted on the DAT One load board network. Spot van rates averaged $1.80 per mile nationally, up 21 cents compared to May and down 9 cents versus June 2019.

Spot reefer volumes were up 4.5 percent month-over-month due to seasonal produce freight from the Southeast, West Coast and Pacific Northwest. The reefer load-to-truck ratio was 5.5, more than triple April’s all-time low of 1.7 loads per truck. The national average reefer spot rate was $2.15 per mile, up 13 cents compared to May but 9 cents lower year over year.

A surge in construction activity continued last month’s sharp increase in the national flatbed load-to-truck ratio, 24.8 in June, the highest number since July of 2018. June flatbed volume was up 15.9 percent from May and almost even with 2019 numbers. The national average flatbed spot rate was $2.07 per mile, 17 cents more than May but 10 percent lower than June 2019.

DAT Freight Outlook
Importers will be busy staging retail freight in warehouse markets to prepare for back-to-school shopping season, which runs from July 4 through the end of August. There are also positive signals for the flatbed market, with a major uptick in suburban single-family home construction, which is considered freight intensive due to the wide range of materials needed for construction.

“There’s clearly pent-up demand in the economy, but the recent surges in COVID-19 cases remain a complicating variable for consumer behavior this summer,” Adamo said. “Retail and consumer packaged goods volumes are way up, but manufactured goods are way down.”

Please visit dat.com/covid-19 for regular updates on the freight market and DAT’s most recent freight forecasts.

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.