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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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 for the third month in a row to reach 149 in May, Cass said. Driver shortages, supply constraints in truck production and continued freight demand are contributing to rising linehaul rates.
"The trend of the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index should remain up and to the right in the near-term," the report said.
Truckload Linehaul 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 23,600 in May, down 23% month over month, according to FTR. But FTR cautioned that the cooling Class 8 order numbers do not represent weakening demand. Rather, many fleets have already placed their orders for the year, and supply chain issues are hampering OEMs.
"Semiconductor and other component shortages continue to restrict production," FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake said in a statement. "[Fleets] are getting frustrated because production is unable to keep up with demand."
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 and reefer 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.
Spot rates, once again, hit all-time highs, with dry van reaching $2.38 and and reefer coming in at $2.77 for the week starting May 30, which includes Memorial Day.
Average reefer spot rates were 87 cents higher than the same week last year, 85 cents more than in 2019 and 41 cents higher than this time in 2018, DAT said.
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.
Spot market volume fell the week of May 30, which led to falling load-to-truck ratios in the dry van and reefer markets. Equipment posts also declined, but not to the extent that load posts dropped.
The data includes Memorial Day, so the next set of data will provide a better indication of whether spot markets are cooling off or whether the drop was simply a result of the long weekend and holiday.
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.