Spot rates continue to fall in line with seasonal expectations
Spot rates in the Truckstop system fell again during the week ended January 27 (week 4), but so far, the declines have tracked with seasonal expectations after the typical late December surge in the van segments. Broker-posted rates in dry van and refrigerated are lower than they were before the final two weeks of 2022, but they are still tracking with the five-year average. The strength of spot rates will become clearer over the next several weeks as they typically begin to firm in February.
Although rates are still running at close to average levels, volume in 2023 has been weakening relative to the five-year average. Total load activity ticked up 1% after the prior week’s 13.3% drop. Volume was nearly 60% below the same week last year and nearly 21% below the five-year average. The comparison with the five-year average has deteriorated each week during 2023 and is the lowest since the lockdown period of the pandemic except for Thanksgiving week last year. Load activity was mixed regionally as volume was up in the Southeast, Northeast, and Midwest but down elsewhere. Truck postings increased 3.2%, and the Market Demand Index – the ratio of loads to trucks – fell to its lowest level in eight weeks.
The total broker-posted spot market rate fell nearly 3 cents, which is the smallest decrease of 2023 so far. As was the case in the previous week, rates were 19% below the same 2022 week, and they were about 5% above the five-year average, which is slightly weaker than in week 3. FTR estimates that rates excluding a calculated fuel surcharge were about 28% below the same 2022 week.
Dry van spot rates declined about 6 cents after the much sharper decreases in the two weeks prior. Rates were down more than 34 cents in the first four weeks of 2023 after jumping about 24 cents in the final two weeks of 2022. Dry van rates were about 28% below the same 2022 week and about 1% below the five-year average for the week. Excluding a fuel surcharge, rates were about 39% lower than in the same week last year. Dry van loads ticked up nearly 1% after dropping about 24% in the prior week. Volume was almost 60% below the same week last year and about 16% below the five-year average for the week.
Refrigerated spot rates fell 10 cents for the smallest decrease this year. Rates dropped nearly 75 cents in the first four weeks of the year after surging more than 67 cents in the final two weeks of 2022. Refrigerated rates were more than 29% below the same 2022 week and about 1% below the five-year average for the week. Although the deficit relative to the average is small, it is the largest since June 2020. Excluding fuel surcharges, rates were nearly 39% below the same week last year. Refrigerated loads declined 3% after falling more than 26% during the previous week. Volume was more than 64% below the same week last year and nearly 26% below the five-year average for the week.
Flatbed spot rates eased just over a cent. The segment saw neither the big surge in late December nor the sustained cooldown this year that the van segments experienced. Flatbed rates in the latest week were only about 4 cents lower than they were before the holidays. Rates were about 14% below the same 2022 week but 8% above the five-year average for the week. Excluding an imputed surcharge, flatbed rates were nearly 23% below the same week last year. Flatbed loads increased 2.8% to the highest level since August. Volume was almost 63% below the same week last year and nearly 28% below the five-year average for the week.