Trucking news: Cass Freight Index is up again in May

As the months go by in 2010, the Cass Information Systems Freight Index continues to show sustained growth.

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As the months go by in 2010, the Cass Information Systems Freight Index continues to show sustained growth.

The Index, which measures the number of shipments and expenditures that are processed through Cass’s account payable systems, indicated that May shipments at 1.014 was 2.3 percent better than April’s .991. And on a year-over-year basis, May shipments were up 9.7 percent compared to May 2009?s 0.913. Cass officials pointed out that this is also the first time shipments are above 1.0 since November of 2008.

May shipment expenditures at 1.784 are up 5.3 percent from April’s 1.689, and are up 19.8 percent year-over-year.

Various trucking industry executives and analysts view the Cass Freight Index as an accurate barometer of freight volumes and market conditions. Credit Suisse analyst Chris Ceraso has frequently stated in research notes that “in the past that the Cass Freight Index sometimes leads the ATA (American Trucking Associations) tonnage index when freight picks up.”

This follows last week’s monthly tonnage report from the American Trucking Associations, which indicated its advanced seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index was up in April for the sixth time in seven months, rising 0.9 percent. This comes on the heels of a 0.4 percent March gain.  April’s increase put the SA at 110.2 (2000=100), following a 109.2 March reading, which at that time was its highest reading since November 2008.

The ATA said the SA was up 9.4 percent year-over-year, marking the fifth straight year-over-year gain and its biggest since January 2005.  The ATA added that for the first four months of 2010, SA tonnage was up 6 percent compared to the same timeframe a year ago. The ATA also reported that its not seasonally-adjusted index (NSA), which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, hit 111.3 in April, which was down 4.4 percent from March. On an annual basis, the NSA was up 1.7 percent.

“Truck tonnage volumes continue to improve at a solid, yet sustainable, rate,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement.. “Tonnage is being boosted by robust manufacturing output and stronger retail sales. For most fleets, freight volumes feel better than reported tonnage because the supply situation, particularly in the truckload sector, is turning quickly.”

While consumer spending is inching up and manufacturing gains continue—as evidenced by the most recent Institute for Supply Management PMI index coming in at 59.7 percent, showing growth for the tenth straight month, and the Commerce Department’s recent report that new orders for manufactured durable goods in April were up 2.9 percent from March to $193.9 billion and were up 16.8 percent year-over-year, marking the fourth time in the last five months new orders were up.

Commerce also reported that durable goods shipments were up for the second straight month with a $2.7 billion—or 1.4 percent—gain to $196 billion, following a 2.1 percent March increase and were up 6.2 percent year-over-year.

Data from Commerce and the ISM portend a cautiously optimistic outlook for trucking volumes to a large degree. But Morgan Stanley analyst Bill Greene commented in a recent research report that while the pace of recovery has slowed, “incremental demand is still improving, but marginally slower than historic seasonality would suggest…and incremental supply is trending with normal seasonality.”


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

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