How does your Operating Ratio compare to the best in the business?

FreightWaves Customer SuccessDaily Tips

Did you know? You can monitor carrier operating ratios using SONAR’s OPRAT index.

What is it?

Operating Ratio (OPRAT) – This index provides total operating costs divided by operating revenue, which is derived from Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) members and is reported on a monthly basis. OPRAT is segmented into dry van, reefer and flatbed carriers. OPRAT is a measure of how much of every dollar received from customers is spent on moving the freight. Expenses include items such as driver wages, truck lease, insurance, maintenance, etc. Debt servicing is excluded from this calculation. High operating ratios (ORs) are indicative of lower profit margins and ineffective operations or competitive conditions. 

Ex: An OR of 101 means a carrier is losing $1 for every $100 it receives from sales revenue. 

OPRAT is divided into the following granularities:

  1. Dry van company fleet – VCF
  2. Reefer company fleet – RCF
  3. Flatbed company fleet – FCF
  4. Dry van company and leased fleet – VCFOO
  5. Reefer company and leased fleet – RCFOO
  6. Flatbed company and leased fleet – FCFOO
  7. Brokerage divisions for dry van, reefer and flatbed – VBR, RBR, FBR
  8. Consolidated for dry van, reefer, and flatbed – VCNS, RCNS, FCNS


In the chart above, you can see the average operating ratio for the company-owned fleet section of TCA’s dry van carriers. 

Who needs it?

Analysts: Analysts can utilize the OR benchmark to gauge how successful carriers are at navigating the current market. They will also be able to see how competitive the market is during the month. 

Carriers: Carriers can use the OR data to benchmark how effective they are in comparison to carriers with similar operations. If they see TCA members lowering their ORs while theirs is increasing, it is a sign they are not effectively navigating current market conditions. 

Brokers: Brokers can use the carrier OR numbers to see how stressed they are at that point. If the ORs are high, brokers will have less room to press for lower rates. If the ORs are higher, they can potentially use that as a sign that carriers have room to move on their rates.

Shippers: Similar to the brokers, shippers can use the ORs to see how stressed carriers are in the market. Pressing the carrier too far when OR numbers are lower will potentially damage relationships. On the other hand, carriers with elevated OR numbers can help shippers identify sector health and carrier willingness to negotiate. This can also be used in negotiating carrier compliance numbers.

What can I do with it?

Watching carrier ORs can be useful in identifying the health of the trucking sector. When ORs are too high (over 100), carriers may be more willing to take lower-priced freight, but are at a higher risk of parking their trucks and leaving the space. Lower ORs are indicative of well-run carriers, but also stronger market conditions in which rates are elevated. Having insight into the trucking sector’s health allows you to see if you or your carriers are in a strong or soft market.

Show me how!

1)  View the OPRAT in a chart to see the changes and trends in the carrier operating ratios in the three main modes.   

  • Upward trends can indicate soft markets where the market is overly competitive in relation to the demand for capacity.
  • Downward trends indicate an increase in carrier pricing leverage.
  • Compare ORs between the different equipment types to gain insight into the sectors of the economy they service. 

Pro Tip: Use OPRAT with both leased (OO) and company fleet (CF) tickers to see how effectively carriers are utilizing owner-operators in each sector. 

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