DAT Truckload Volume Index: Truckload volumes rebounded in May; spot pricing held steady

BEAVERTON, Ore., June 15, 2023 — Truckload freight volumes rallied modestly in May and national average spot rates were stable for a second straight month, said DAT Freight & Analytics, operators of the DAT One freight marketplace and DAT iQ data analytics service.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI) – an indicator of loads moved during a given month – increased for van, refrigerated (“reefer”) and flatbed freight:

  • Van TVI: 220, up 5% from April
  • Reefer TVI: 164, a 5% increase month over month
  • Flatbed TVI: 258, up 7% from April

The van and reefer TVI numbers rebounded from their lowest points since February 2021. Truckload volumes typically decline from April to May, but they increased for the first time since 2019.

“This was the second best May on record for van and reefer freight, according to our TVI,” said Ken Adamo, DAT Chief of Analytics. “There was demand to move seasonal goods at a time when the truck supply on the spot market tightened due to the International Roadcheck inspection event, the Memorial Day holiday and general carrier attrition.”

Van and reefer load-to-truck ratios increased
National average van and reefer load-to-truck ratios rose in May:

  • Van ratio: 2.5, up from 1.9 in April, meaning there were 2.5 loads for every truck on the DAT One marketplace
  • Reefer ratio: 3.6, up from 2.7
  • Flatbed ratio: 11.7, down from 12.1

National average broker-to-carrier spot rates were steady compared to April:

  • Spot van rate: $2.05 per mile, down 1 cent
  • Spot reefer rate: $2.44 a mile, up 3 cents
  • Spot flatbed rate: $2.65 a mile, down 2 cents

Line-haul rates, which subtract an amount equal to an average fuel surcharge, increased for the first time this year for all three equipment types. The average van line-haul rate was $1.61 a mile, up 2 cents compared to April; the reefer line-haul rate jumped 7 cents to $1.96 a mile; and the flatbed line-haul rate rose 2 cents to $2.12 a mile.

Contract rates declined
National average rates for contracted freight declined compared to April:

  • Contract van rate: $2.62 per mile, down 6 cents
  • Contract reefer rate: $2.91 a mile, down 10 cents
  • Contract flatbed rate: $3.30 a mile, down 3 cents

The average rate for contract van and reefer freight has fallen for seven consecutive months. 

“Shippers are taking advantage of abundant truckload capacity to establish new contract rates at substantial savings compared to 2022, and to make strategic use of the spot market,” Adamo said. “We expect these trends to continue through the end of the year.”

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.

Load-to-truck ratios reflect truckload supply and demand on the DAT One marketplace and indicate the pricing environment for spot truckload freight.