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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Load-to-truck ratios from DAT serve as indicators 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.
During the week of May 1 to May 6, the load-to-truck ratio increased across all modes:
- Dry van increased from 3.8 to 4.0 loads per truck
- Reefer increased from 6.5 to 6.7 loads per truck
- Flatbed increased from 70 to 72.8 loads per truck
Loads posted to the DAT One network increased for the third consecutive week, DAT said in an emailed analysis to Transport Dive. The number of available trucks increased 1.1%.
Load-posting activity typically increases in May with more produce and flatbed loads. DAT's busiest reefer and flatbed lanes saw increases in loads moved, accordingly. But dry van activity brought down overall load postings, as loads moved on DAT's busiest van lanes declined 5.8%.
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 week of May 1 to May 6, spot rates fell for all three equipment types.
Dry van rates were down 5 cents from the previous week and reefer rates were down 4 cents, DAT said in an emailed analysis to Transport Dive. The flatbed rate fell 1 cent.
Rates continued their decline despite higher load-to-truck ratios, which typically indicate better carrier pricing power, DAT said.
Spot linehaul rates
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 reached 167.1 in April, up from 163.4 in March.
Leading spot market indicators have fallen sharply in recent months after "an extraordinary cycle" for truckload rates, Cass said in its report. This could mean rates have peaked, with limited room to climb further.
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 15,400 units in April, down 28% compared to March and down 56% compared to April 2021.
The order levels don't "accurately reflect" new truck demand, Charles Roth, FTR analyst for commercial vehicles, said in a statement. OEMs are trying to minimize potential 2023 headwinds by limiting how far they push out their backlogs. Once supply chain issues improve, the tide is expected to turn.
“As production continues to be significantly impacted by supply chain disruptions, component shortages, labor shortages, and increased material costs, the hesitancy to open 2023 order boards stems from not being able to guarantee pricing given the current environment," Roth said.
Class 8 net truck orders in North America
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 plummeted to 16,800 units in April, down 53% from the previous month. Orders were still up 4% YoY.
Trailer OEMs are holding off on issuing quotes for 2023 orders due to supply uncertainties, according to FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake.
"The situation in Shanghai is going to delay some components that are needed to make trailers," Ake said. "In addition, the war in Europe is creating shortages of aluminum with an associated spike in pricing."
Once supply chain issues subside, OEMs will need to build trailers at elevated rates to catch up to this demand, Ake added.
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 came in at 118.8, seasonally adjusted, in March. That's 2.4% higher than February's index, which was revised higher from ATA's March 22 press release.
March marked the eighth consecutive month-to-month improvement for the index, representing a total increase of 7.4%, said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement.
"While there might be some recent softness in the spot market, for-hire contract freight tonnage remains solid and is only limited by lack of capacity, both drivers and equipment, at contract fleets," Costello said.