DAT Truckload Volume Index: Spot rates slipped further in March

Demand did not result in higher pricing for truckload services last month

BEAVERTON, Ore., April 24, 2023 — The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI) increased for all three equipment types for the first time since July 2022, but national average spot van and refrigerated (“reefer”) rates plunged to two-and-half-year lows in March, said DAT Freight & Analytics, which operates the industry’s largest online freight marketplace and DAT iQ data analytics service.

  • Van TVI rose to 233 (10% higher than in February)
  • Reefer TVI climbed to 178 (8% increase from February)
  • Flatbed TVI was 268 (23% increase from February) 

The TVI in March is typically higher than in February because the month is longer.

Despite higher freight volumes, low rates in March capped a challenging first quarter of 2023 for most truckload carriers and freight brokers. Flatbed freight was an exception: pricing and demand on the spot market have been steady since the start of the year.

“While shippers are taking advantage of the current situation to stabilize their carrier base and bring their contract rates back in line, the spread between spot and contract rates remains historically large—59 cents a mile for van freight, 57 cents for reefers and 66 cents for flatbed freight,” said Ken Adamo, DAT chief of analytics. “We expect spot rates to remain at ‘touch-bottom’ levels until retailers start replenishing inventory for the end-of-the-year holidays.”

Van, reefer rates declined
National average spot van and reefer rates fell to their lowest points since July 2020.

  • The spot van rate averaged $2.16 per mile in March, 8 cents less than in February and 89 cents less year over year. The contract rate averaged $2.75 a mile, down 12 cents.
  • The spot reefer rate fell 9 cents to $2.50 a mile. That’s 95 cents less than in March 2022. The contract rate averaged $3.07 a mile, a 9-cent decline month over month.
  • The spot flatbed rate rose 1 cent to $2.71 a mile, down 72 cents year over year. The contract rate averaged $3.37 a mile, down 6 cents from February.

Line-haul rates, which subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge, have fallen each month this year. 

The average van line-haul rate was $1.67 a mile, down 4 cents compared to February and 15 cents lower than January. Reefer line-haul rates averaged $1.96 a mile, down 5 cents month over month and 79 cents less than in March 2022. 

The average flatbed line-haul rate increased by 5 cents to $2.12 a mile – 48 cents less year over year.

The national average price of on-highway diesel was down 11 cents compared to February. Surcharge amounts fell by 4 cents to 49 cents a mile for van freight, 54 cents for reefers and 59 cents for flatbeds.

Flatbed ratio reflects seasonal strength
Load-to-truck ratios reflect truckload supply and demand on the spot market and indicate the pricing environment for truckload freight.

  • The national average van load-to-truck ratio fell from 2.5 to 2.0, meaning there were 2.0 loads for every van posted to the DAT One marketplace last month. The ratio was 4.6 in March 2022.
  • The reefer ratio averaged 3.0, down from 3.8 in February. It was 8.4 in March 2022.
  • The flatbed ratio was 15.5, up from 13.6. It was 89.8 in March 2022.

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. 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. 

Spot truckload rates are negotiated for each load and paid to the carrier by a freight broker. National average spot rates are derived from payments to carriers by freight brokers, third-party logistics providers and other transportation buyers for hauls of 250 miles or more with a pickup date during the month reported. DAT’s rate analysis is based on $150 billion in annualized freight transactions.