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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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 110.3, seasonally adjusted, in August. This was the first increase since March.
But ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said tonnage has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic increase, despite the increase from July to August. Costello named a few main reasons: semiconductor shortages, driver shortages and a lack of equipment.
For-hire truck tonnage index
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.
Dry-van rates once again hit a new high and reached $2.50 the week of Sept. 12, up 5 cents from the previous week. Reefer rates also broke records as they jumped 6 cents to $2.86 per mile. Shippers are working to move freight through congested supply chains and port networks, which keeps rates elevated.
Flatbed rates were up 1 cent week over week but down from record highs in the summer. Construction activity typically fades as the summer months end.
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.
The load-to-truck ratios fell in dry van but rose in reefer and flatbed the week of Sept. 12.
Imports across the southern border and produce harvests have kept tight capacity in the reefer market. The load-to-truck ratio increased to 13.55.
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 ticked up to 148.8 in August. Congestion in intermodal networks and chassis shortages are some of the factors causing TL linehaul rates to rise.
Cass said the upward rate trend isn't over, as inflationary effects from hurricanes, the delta variant and the semiconductor shortage continue to strain supply chains.
"Capacity is beginning to return as drivers respond to higher pay ... This will gradually change the trajectory of truckload rates, but it will take time," Cass said in its report.
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.
Preliminary trailer orders ticked back up in August to 15,100, FTR said. That's up 79% from July but down 47% YoY.
"OEMs are not producing enough trailers in 2021, so pent-up demand grows every month," FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake said in a statement.
Some OEMs have opened up build slots for 2022, but uncertainty persists in the supply chain, related to parts availability and labor.
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 rose to 39,400 in August, according to FTR. That's up 51% from July and 91% from August 2020.
Orders are rising as OEMs start to open up order books for 2022, but they continue to be cautious because of uncertainty in semiconductor supply and elevated commodity prices.
Fleets "are in desperate need of trucks presently," Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake said in a statement. "Demand for Class 8 trucks will be huge in 2022 due to growing freight markets and pent-up demand left over from 2021."