Cass Freight report tells ongoing story of mixed economic signals

The trend of bumpy end-of-the-year economic activity remained intact in November, according to the most recent edition of the Cass Freight Index Report.

By ·

The trend of bumpy end-of-the-year economic activity remained intact in November, according to the most recent edition of the Cass Freight Index Report.

The Cass Freight Index accurately measures trends in North American shipping activity based on $20 billion in paid freight expenses of roughly 350 of America’s largest shippers, according to Cass officials.

As LM has reported, many trucking industry executives and analysts consider the Cass Freight Index to be the most accurate barometer of freight volumes and market conditions, with many analysts noting that the Cass Freight Index sometimes leads the American Trucking Associations (ATA) tonnage index at turning points, which lends to the value of the Cass Freight Index.

Freight shipments—at 1.105—were down 1.0 percent compared to October and were up 1.1 percent compared to November 2012. Despite declining in November, shipments have remained above the 1.0 mark for 40 consecutive months since May 2010, when shipments moved above the 1.0 mark for the first time since November 2008. 

“The decline in shipments was not unexpected as this is the same weak year-end environment we have observed for the last three years,” wrote Rosalyn Wilson, senior business analyst with Delcan Corporation and author of the annual CSCMP State of Logistics report, in her analysis of the report, adding that “stronger than expected manufacturing activity and shipments of seasonal goods offset a general slowing of freight movements to temper the drop in shipment levels.”

Wilson added that the 1.1 percent shipment decline is better than October’s 3.5 percent fall off, adding that the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing report Production PMI saw a 3.3 percent jump in November due in large part to export production, with export goods shipments and the seasonal jump in food and beverage shipments not strong enough to overcome the drop in shipments for things like apparel, appliances, and electronics.

The report stated that November freight expenditures were up 0.6 percent compared to October and were up 7.8 percent compared to November 2012. Wilson said the slight sequential rise can likely be attributed to a surge in spot market rates in the last two weeks of November, citing data from TransCore which noted end of month spot market activity was solid for van and flatbed loads and subsequently upped average rates up 2 cents per mile.

“We’re seeing mixed economic signals as we approach the end of the year. Many indicators have improved during the last several months, including new home sales, new jobs, new export orders, and manufacturing production, new orders and backlog,” wrote Wilson. Exports rose in recent months, but largely based on the strength of oil product exports. Container exports and imports, largely aimed at the consumer market, have trended downward. Despite the better than expected third quarter GDP, the fourth quarter will not be as strong. December is likely to provide a weak finish to a relatively weak 2013 for the freight industry.”

Sentiment from shippers and carriers is in line with Wilson’s assessment, as a flattish overall economy is continuing a sort of “more of the same” environment for carriers and logistics services providers.

A truckload carrier told LM that market conditions appear to be in a holding pattern, with the caveat that things could improve closer to the middle of 2015.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Maximizing Your Sales Team’s Effectiveness
Companies need to examine how to restructure their sales team to respond to different customers and subsequent buying behaviors and preferences.
Download Today!
From the November 2017 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
An inside look at how a large pharmaceutical firm transformed its vendor and supplier relationships into true, collaborative partnerships—and greatly strengthened its logistics and supply chain operations in the process.
34th Annual Quest for Quality Awards: 2017 Awards Dinner
Trucking Regulations: Washington U-Turns; States put hammer down
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Make Your Products Smarter in the Supply Chain with the IoT
This webinar explores how temperature-sensing smart labels and inexpensive NFC tags are being used to extend product safety and efficiency beyond the shipping dock while also building a communication bridge to your customers.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2017 NASSTRAC Shipper of the Year: Mallinckrodt; Mastering and managing complexity
An inside look at how a large pharmaceutical firm transformed its vendor and supplier relationships...
2017 Alliance Awards: Recognizing outstanding supply chain partnerships
In an era where effective supply chain collaboration is both highly valued and elusive, Logistics...

26th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends: Transportation at Digital Speed
While a majority of companies strongly agree that transportation is a strategically important...
34th Annual Quest for Quality Awards: Winners Revealed
Which carriers, third-party logistics providers, and North American ports have crossed the service...