Despite rising demand from swelling truck freight volume, national average spot van and refrigerated truck rates plunged to two-and-half-year lows in March, according to a report from DAT Freight & Analytics.
Those low rates in March capped a challenging first quarter of 2023 for most truckload carriers and freight brokers, with the one exception of the flatbed freight sector, where pricing and demand on the spot market have been steady since the start of the year, Beaverton, Oregon-based DAT said.
“While shippers are taking advantage of the current situation to stabilize their carrier base and bring their contract rates back in line, the spread between spot and contract rates remains historically large—59 cents a mile for van freight, 57 cents for reefers and 66 cents for flatbed freight,” Ken Adamo, DAT chief of analytics, said in a release. “We expect spot rates to remain at ‘touch-bottom’ levels until retailers start replenishing inventory for the end-of-the-year holidays.”
While it’s no surprise that the trucking business is in the bottom trough of a cycle, the results came despite encouraging economic signals: the DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI) increased for all three equipment types for the first time since July 2022.
The TVI reflects the change in the number of loads with a pickup date during that month; the actual index number is normalized each month to accommodate any new data sources without distortion. A baseline of 100 equals the number of loads moved in January 2015.
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