Indicators: ‘Dramatic highs, lows’ for freight activity and rates in January, says DAT

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CCJ‘s Indicators rounds up the latest reports on trucking business indicators on rates, freight, equipment, the economy and more.

Spot market truckload rates got off to a strong start in January, says DAT in its monthly Truckload Volume Index report. But rates quickly chilled in the middle of the month, with prices for dry van and refrigerated loads dipping from December — despite increased volumes.

Flatbed freight volumes and the national average flatbed rate were both up slightly in January compared to December.

Pent-up demand after the busy holiday season kept truckload prices high in the first half of January, says DAT. As more capacity became available in the second half, the competition for freight drove rates down quickly.

“A lot of carriers struggle during the winter months but better days are coming soon,” said Ken Adamo, chief of analytics at DAT. “Our analysis predicts that dry van spot rates will rise as much as 3 to 5 percent by the end of Q1, and 6 to 10 percent by the end of Q2, although the trajectory may not be constant.”

While the mid-month swing was unusual, the overall trend for the month was not. Higher truckload freight volumes are common for January and so are lower rates.

Spot rates have declined in January for all but one of the past 10 years.

“Our rate forecasting models show that this will change in the spring, and we will start seeing year-over-year increases for the first time since September 2018,” says Adamo.