Truckload freight volumes remain high, but national average spot rates fell sharply in January compared to December 2020, according to DAT Freight & Analytics.
The DAT Truckload Volume Index, a measure of dry van, refrigerated and flatbed loads moved by truckload carriers, fell 2% in January from the previous month, but was up 7.5% year over year.
“Spot market volumes and rates fell from record-setting levels at the end of December and our models predict a continued decline into the second quarter,” said Ken Adamo, chief of analytics at DAT. “The headwind of COVID-19 is mixing with the tailwinds of vaccine distribution and economic stimulus. There’s still uncertainty about whether consumers will continue to spend, what they’ll buy now, and how networks will respond as e-commerce drives more final-mile delivery and fulfillment houses move closer to where customers live.”
Van Rates Hit Inflection Point
The van load-to-truck ratio averaged 4.3 in January, down from 4.8 in December 2020. A ratio of 4.3 means there were 4.3 available loads for every available truck on the DAT network. The van ratio was 10.4% lower in January compared to December 2020, but 95% higher than the ratio in January 2020.
Last month, contract rates were consistently higher than spot rates for the first time since July.
The spot van rate averaged $2.36 per mile nationally in January, down 11 cents compared to December 2020 and 49 cents higher compared to January 2020. At $2.12 per mile, the average line-haul van rate (the total spot rate minus fuel surcharges) fell from end-of-year highs.
Reefer, Flatbed Rates Decline
Spot reefer volumes fell 3.5% month over month. The national average reefer load-to-truck ratio fell to 8.2, still five times higher than April 2020’s record low of 1.7 loads per truck. The national average spot reefer rate was $2.61 per mile, down 7 cents compared to December 2020 and 37 cents higher year over year.
The national flatbed load-to-truck ratio averaged 47.9 in January, the highest since the summer of 2018. January flatbed volumes were up 3% compared to December 2020 and down 9.5% year over year. The national average spot flatbed rate was $2.50 per mile, 1 cent higher than December 2020 and 33 cents higher than January 2020.