Economic forces, consumer demand, seasonality, natural disasters and myriad other factors contribute to transport's cyclical market.
The charts below show the latest data on Class 8 truck orders, trailer orders, monthly tonnage and TL linehaul rates. We'll update this page frequently as new data is released.
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Truckload linehaul rates
The Truckload Linehaul Index from Cass measures per-mile linehaul rates. In the chart below, the baseline is 100, which represents conditions in 2005. Rates fluctuate as a result of supply, demand and balance (or a lack thereof) in the market, but they also include factors such as fuel prices and insurance costs.
The index broke a record in March, Cass said. It reached 143.1, beating the prior record of 142.4 in October 2018.
Shortages of drivers and trucks, as OEMs face part shortages, are contributing to rising linehaul rates.
Truckload Linehaul Index
FTR's trailer data covers orders for dry vans, refrigerated vans and flatbeds. Orders for trailers, like the Class 8 orders, signal confidence in the market and anticipation of strong business conditions.
Trailer orders came in at 27,400 in March, up more than 20,000 over last March when the pandemic began to affect activity.
Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, said trailer backlogs are at record levels. "Fleets desperately need more trailers," Ake said in a statement. FTR expects orders to moderate in the coming months, in line with seasonal trends.
Net U.S. trailer orders
The American Trucking Associations has been tracking tonnage, calculating the index based on member surveys, since the 1970s. In the chart below, the baseline is 100, which represents conditions in 2015. Tonnage primarily reflects freight movement through contracts versus on the spot market.
Tonnage fell in February to 110, which ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello attributed to winter storms and weather across much of the country.
"I continue to expect a nice climb up for the economy and truck freight as economic stimulus checks are spent and more people are vaccinated," Costello said in a statement.
For-hire truck tonnage index
Class 8 orders
Class 8 truck orders point to confidence in the market and the need to scale up capacity in anticipation of freight demand. Fleets buy trucks to replace the older models in their inventory, or to aid expansion.
Preliminary estimates of Class 8 orders came in at 40,800 in March, an increase of more than 33,000 from March 2020, when numbers were affected by COVID-19.
Economic recovery and government stimulus continue to drive freight demand, according to FTR. But supply chain challenges, such as labor and semiconductor shortages, constrain the production of Class 8 trucks.
"It appears the industry will be playing catch-up well into the first half of next year," FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake said in a statement.
Updated Apr. 5, 2021