DAT freight index shows fourth straight month of decline

May 11, 2023

SJ Munoz


May will be a month to watch in terms of truckload freight volumes based on recent reports from DAT Freight and Analytics.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index, which provides a measure of loads moved during a given month, declined again in April, marking the fourth consecutive month of decline.

From March to April freight volumes tend to decline. However, van and reefer numbers are the lowest they’ve been since February 2021, while flatbed volumes fell by nearly 14%.

“May will be pivotal for shippers, brokers and carriers,” Ken Adamo, DAT chief of analytics, said in a DAT report. “After a challenging first four months of the year, we expect to see the effects of seasonality on freight volumes and rates. The question is how sustainable those effects will be.”

Load-to-truck ratios were also down which indicates less demand for truckload capacity on the spot market, DAT said.

Demand for reefer and van has not been this low since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Van spot rates are now 71 cents lower year over year with reefer spot rates 72 cents below the April 2022 mark.

Fuel surcharge rates also fell for all equipment types, while the average price per gallon of diesel was down 11 cents compared to March 2023.

In order for the market to rebound, Adamo explained what has to take place and when that might happen.

“The supply of trucks on the spot market need to diminish, which unfortunately means more carriers exiting the market,” he said in the report. “There needs to be higher demand for trucks, in other words, shippers with more loads than they planned for. In 2016 and 2019, it was precisely the third week in May when the spot market entered a recovery phase after prolonged declines of stagnation. If we see an uptick in demand before Memorial Day, it will be a welcome sign for owner-operators and small carriers as we head into the summer and fall.” LL

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