ACT Research: Sharp Truckload Spot Rate Declines Poised to Moderate as Bottoming Progresses

ACT Research Co.
5 min readFeb 15, 2023

The latest release of the ACT Freight Forecast, U.S. Rate and Volume OUTLOOK reported truckload spot rates, insights on the upcoming CVSA Road Check, and freight cycle bottoming.

DAT Trendlines Spot & Contract Rates: Dry Vans (net fuel)

Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s Vice President and Senior Analyst, said, “DAT dry van truckload spot rates are tracking toward $1.74 per mile, net fuel, in February, down from $1.83 in January.” He added, “Against the prior-year period, dry van rates are down 34%, a cycle low, but we expect the declines to start to moderate from here as the bottoming process continues.”

Denoyer continued, “Further declines in rates will accelerate the emerging capacity correction. Truck driving is a very tough job, so it won’t be too hard to convince people to find something else to do as the financial stress of these low spot rates grows. Just as the cure for high prices is high prices, the cure for low prices is low prices.

For further context, he shared, “CVSA Road Check is scheduled for May 16–18 this year, and will be an interesting litmus test for spot rates. While industry conditions are broadly loose, cost economics will drive a supply/demand balance shift in the spot market first, perhaps as soon as Road Check.”

Looking ahead in the freight cycle, Denoyer shared, “The bottoming process is ongoing, and layoff announcements by transportation companies have begun. It will take time, but we think labor attrition will begin this year and will be key to a stronger rate environment in late 2023.”

He concluded, “The cycle-bottom phase features slowing capacity and thinning marginal capacity amid lower rates, preceding an early-cycle tight market. We think both the cycle-bottom and early-cycle phases are possible in 2023.”

How are ACT Research’s freight forecasts performing? For 2022, our forecasts for the shipments component of the Cass Freight Index® were 97.5% accurate on average for the 24-month forecast period. Our January 2021 forecast for 2022, two full years out, was 99.8% accurate.

ACT Research Forecasts: DAT Dry Van Spot Rates

ACT Research’s full-year 2022 DAT spot rate forecasts were 99.7% accurate from Q2’21 (19–21 months out) for dry van and 98.5% for reefer. DAT dry van spot rates, net fuel, finished 2022 at $2.06 per mile, in line with our forecasts to the penny from 18 and 19 months out (June and July 2021). The average accuracy of our 21-month forecast period was 93.3%.

The monthly 58-page ACT Freight Forecast report provides analysis and forecasts for a broad range of U.S. freight measures, including the Cass Freight Index, Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, and DAT spot and contract rates by trailer type. The service provides monthly, quarterly, and annual predictions for the TL, LTL, and intermodal markets over a two- to three-year time horizon, including capacity, volumes, and rates. The Freight Forecast provides unmatched detail on the freight rate outlook, helping companies across the supply chain plan with greater visibility and less uncertainty.

ACT Research: Freight Forecast, U.S. Volume and Rate OUTLOOK

ACT Research is recognized as the leading publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies. ACT Research is a contributor to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators and a member of the Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Panel. ACT Research executives have received peer recognition, including election to the Board of Directors of the National Association for Business Economics, appointment as Consulting Economist to the National Private Truck Council, and the Lawrence R. Klein Award for Blue Chip Economic Indicators’ Most Accurate Economic Forecast over a four-year period. ACT Research senior staff members have earned accolades including Chicago Federal Reserve Automotive Outlook Symposium Best Overall Forecast, Wall Street Journal Top Economic Outlook, and USA Today Top 10 Economic Forecasters. More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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Click below to access:

More information about ACT’s Freight Forecast, U.S. Rate and Volume OUTLOOK.

Information about ACT’s freight-related databases.

January’s Freight Forecast press release.

ACT’s In the News page.

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ACT Research Co.

ACT Research is the leader in commercial vehicle industry data, market analysis, and forecasting services for North America.