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, linehaul rates and load-to-truck ratios. We'll update this page frequently as new data is released.
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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 rebounded to 23,100 units in December, according to FTR. That's up 139% from November, when orders took a nosedive, and but down 55% from December 2020. For 2021, Class 8 orders totaled 365,000.
The increased orders indicate some optimism among OEMs about the future of the supply chain situation, but they continue to accept orders with caution.
"The carriers have freight to haul and funds available for new trucks, but OEMs can’t build enough," said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR.
Class 8 net truck orders in North America
Spot linehaul rates
DAT's linehaul rates measure the seven-day weekly moving average for spot rates in dry van, reefer and flatbed hauls. They often reflect the balance of supply and demand in the spot market. The rates exclude fuel surcharges and are derived from DAT's RateView database.
During the first week of January, spot rates increased week-over-week in dry van but fell in reefer and flatbed.
Rates are starting off 2022 at 54 cents per mile higher than they started 2021. Reefer rates continue to surpass $3 per mile.
Spot linehaul rates
Load-to-truck ratios from DAT serve as indicator of supply and demand in the spot market. The ratio is calculated based on the number of load posts compared to the number of truck posts on DAT Load Boards. Ratio changes can signal upcoming fluctuations in spot rates.
Load-to-truck ratios continued to tick up in dry van and flatbed during the week of Jan. 2. A record 12 dry-van loads were posted for every available truck, surpassing the previous record of 10.88 set in February 2021.
DAT called load-post activity "extraordinary" and said it was 80% higher compared to the start of 2021.
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 fell 1.5 points to 148.0 in December.
Service issues in rail have pushed more long-haul shipments onto trucks, according to Cass. And with longer lengths of haul, rates per mile decrease. As rail congestion and chassis capacity recover, lengths of haul will shorten and create "upward pressure" on the index, Cass said.
Truckload Linehaul Index
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 came in at 114.5, seasonally adjusted, in November, up 1.3% from October.
November's tonnage level was the highest since April, but numbers are still not up to where they were in spring 2020.
For-hire truck tonnage 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.
Preliminary trailer orders rebounded in November to 32,000, FTR said. That's up 89% from October but down 23% YoY.
The uptick in orders shows trailer manufacturers "expect to be able to lift build rates at some point," FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake said in a statement.
Still, OEMs are proceeding cautiously due to ongoing supply chain issues and labor constraints.