Transportation pricing trends - July 2011

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Up 0.9% from a month ago, average prices for all trucking services increased for the 10th consecutive month in May 2011. Year-over-year, aggregate trucking tags climbed at a 3.6% pace as TL and LTL prices each increased 4.5%. With increasing demand and still-high fuel costs exerting inflationary pressures, our 2011 trucking price forecast has been revised upward to 6.4%. That inflation rate rivals the previous largest annual rate increase: 2008's 6.6% price hike. Back then, most transportation modes saw their prices plummet after that extraordinary '08 inflation boom. Indeed, in 2009, trucking prices plunged 4.6%. This time, our forecast model shows trucking prices falling only 0.5% in 2012.


Airliner price data from companies headquartered in the United States reveal a mixed bag of inflationary trends. Air carriers moving mail and freight on scheduled flights managed to increase prices in May, up 0.8% from a month ago and up 11.6% from same-month-year-ago. Expedited courier services also continued their pattern of aggressive price hikes, up 1.7% and 14.9% over the same time periods. Meanwhile, prices for flying freight on chartered U.S.-owned flights plunged 9.4% from a month ago, but remained 3.7% higher than same-month-year-ago. Focusing on airfreight via scheduled flights, our 2011 inflation outlook has been raised from 8% to 9.3%. This will be followed by a 3.8% price decline in 2012.


Flooded with a barrage of price hikes, a raging Mississippi river hasn't been the only thing on shippers' minds. Prices charged by barges and other inland waterway vessels increased 0.4% from a month ago and 10.5% from same-month-year-ago. Year-over-year, inland waterway freight prices increased 8.5%. Even worse, according to the Labor Department's survey of U.S. companies, deep sea waterborne freight service prices increased at a year-over-year 15.1% pace in May. Adding it all up, our forecast for the U.S. water transportation services price index has been raised from 5.1% to 6.1% in 2011 and lowered from 4.4% to 2.9% in 2012.


Bulk carload freight and intermodal rail traffic have been on a fast track this past spring, according to reports from AAR. So, strong monthly price increases and an upward revision in our rail service industry price forecast should come as no surprise. Up 2.4% from a month ago, average prices for all rail transport services increased for the ninth consecutive month in May 2011. Year-over-year, aggregate rail tags soared higher at a 6.3% pace as intermodal and carload rail prices grew 7.4% and 6.2%, respectively. Our trend forecast for rail industry prices has been revised upward from 5.3% to 7.5% for 2011. Looking farther ahead, we predict a mild 1.8% retrenchment in rail prices, on average, in 2012.

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