Prices for truckload services spiked to their highest levels yet in October, reflecting shippers’ willingness to pay a premium to move goods through their supply chains.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI) was 239 in October, up 2% from September. An industry-standard indicator of freight activity, the TVI is a measure of dry van, refrigerated (“reefer”) and flatbed loads moved by truckload carriers last month.

“Congested ports, intermodal yards and warehouses acted as a drag on the number of loads moved last month,” said Ken Adamo, Chief of Analytics at DAT Freight & Analytics. “As a result, retailers and online sellers took on higher truckload prices in order to make sure their freight is positioned for success for the November and December shopping period.”

Spot Van, Reefer Rates Surged

• The national average rate for van loads on the spot market rose 3 cents to $2.87 per mile (including fuel surcharge) in October. The monthly average rate has increased for five consecutive months and is up 47 cents year over year.

  • Reefer and flatbed spot rates averaged more than $3 a mile for the sixth straight month. The reefer rate was $3.29 per mile, up 4 cents compared to September and a new high. The flatbed rate decreased 1 cent to $3.08 a mile in October amid a seasonal drop in freight related to construction and heavy machinery.

Spot Load Postings Fell 3.3%

  • The number of loads posted to the DAT load board network fell 3.3% in October while truck posts rose 4.2%. The national average van load-to-truck ratio was 5.6, down from 6.3 in September, meaning there were 5.6 available loads for every available van on the network. The van ratio was 4.3 in October 2020 as the economy recovered from COVID-related lockdowns, and 1.7 in October 2019.
  • The reefer load-to-truck ratio declined from 13.5 to 12.0 as harvest activity winds down. The flatbed ratio was 48.6, nearly unchanged from September.

Fuel Surcharges Spiked

  • Contract rates increased for all three equipment types. The national average contract van rate was $2.90 per mile, up 7 cents month over month, while the reefer rate increased 9 cents to $3.07 a mile. The average contract rate for flatbed freight edged up 2 cents higher to $3.33 a mile.
  • At 39 cents a mile for van freight, the national average surcharge for diesel fuel hit a new record and was up 20 cents year over year. The national average price of on-highway diesel was $3.61 a gallon in October, the highest monthly average since November 2014. After labor, fuel is the largest operating cost for truck fleets.