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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Preliminary trailer orders in October were over 34,000 units, increasing 21% month over month but down from over 48,000 units year over year, according to FTR data.
"Build improved 4% m/m in October but lagged net orders, so backlogs rose for only the second time in 2023," FTR said in a monthly report.
Net U.S. trailer orders
Load-to-truck ratios from DAT Freight & Analytics 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 the DAT One load board. Ratio changes can signal upcoming fluctuations in spot rates.
Load-to-truck ratios increased across the board the week beginning Nov. 12, compared to the previous week. DAT reported:
- Dry van increased from 1.7 to 2.0 loads per truck
- Reefer increased from 3.2 to 3.4 loads per truck
- Flatbed increased from 5 to 5.2 loads per truck
Even with a weekly increase due to holiday demand, load post volumes in the reefer spot market are still 37% lower than last year, leaving a yearslong low in the load-to-truck ratio there, DAT Principal Analyst Dean Croke said in a weekly market update.
Dry van volumes are down 32% year over year, Croke said, and in flatbed, volumes are about half what they were this time last year.
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 are derived from DAT’s RateView database and do not include a fuel surcharge.
Overall, national benchmark average rates increased during the week beginning Nov. 12, compared to the previous week.
Dry van rates increased by 1 cent to $1.54 per mile. Reefer increased by nearly 3 cents to $1.94, and flatbed was essentially flat at $1.82.
"Reefer spot rates improve but dry van and [flatbed rates] continue to flatline," DAT Chief of Analytics Ken Adamo said on a weekly market update.
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, which includes spot and contract freight, erased a September gain, dropping in October by 0.6% to 141.1, Cass reported. That also marked an 8% decline year over year.
“The October level was a new cycle low, but only 0.1% below August, as truckload rate trends have been stabilizing, albeit still finding a bottom,” Cass said in a monthly report.
Truckload Linehaul Index
Class 8 orders
Preliminary Class 8 net orders decreased 10% from September to October, dropping from 31,200 units to 28,000, according to a monthly report from FTR. That was also a 35% decline from October 2022.
Despite the declines, FTR Chairman of the Board Eric Starks noted the "overall picture for truck demand is steady. Despite freight weakness, fleets continue to be willing to order new equipment, affirming our expectations of replacement demand during 2024."
Class 8 net truck orders in North America
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.
The ATA Truck Tonnage Index fell 1.1% in September to 113.9, compared to the prior month when seasonally adjusted.
Trucking tonnages had been on an upswing since April, rising 2.2% from that month's low watermark until August. However, September's decrease "erased half of those gains" and shows the freight market remains in flux, ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a press release.
"While it is likely a bottom has been hit in truck freight tonnage, there could still be choppy waters ahead as the freight market remains volatile,” Costello said.