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.
In December, the index grew 1.1% YoY, which Cass described as "modest." "Freight rates are gaining steam," Cass wrote in its report, adding that it anticipates the index to continue improving in the coming months.
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 43,700 in December, up 155% YoY, according to FTR. Order volume in Q4 2020 was the highest on record for a Q4. And orders totaled 297,000 trailers for all of 2020, about 93,000 more than in 2019. FTR expects growth, particularly consumer-facing freight, to continue in 2021 as vaccines roll out.
Net U.S. trailer orders
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 reached 52,100 in December 2020, FTR said, making order activity that month the fourth highest on record. FTR described "soaring momentum" as the trucking industry headed into 2021. "Now, 2021 has the potential to be an incredible recovery year," Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR, said in a news release.
Class 8 net truck orders in North America
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.
The index in November rose to 112.2. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello described 2020's tonnage as a "seesaw pattern." Consumer spending and e-commerce helped to buoy overall freight tonnage.
"Lackluster restaurant, manufacturing and energy sectors remain a drag," Costello said in a statement. "I expect these softer industries to benefit from widespread COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021."