Pricing Across the Transportation Modes

By Staff
October 14, 2010 - LM Editorial


The trucking industry eked out a 0.17% increase in transaction prices from July to August. That meager average price hike was because long-distance TL companies pushed their average prices up 0.4% from a month ago and up 2.5% from August 2009 levels. LTL prices also increased 0.09% from a month ago, but remained 0.19% below a year ago. A business cycle turnaround in pricing already clearly happened for TL carriers in the second quarter of 2009 when prices increased 3% from a year earlier. That's in sharp contrast to the 8.7% year-ago price cut that TL truckers reported in Q2 of 2008. Our latest forecast sees TL prices up 1.8% in 2010 and 2.3% in 2011. LTL tags are forecast to be up 0.5% in 2010 and 3% in 2011.


The average price for flying cargo and mail on scheduled U.S.-owned airline flights increased 0.1% from a month ago. That left prices up 11.4% from the recession-scarred low of August 2009. Taking back only a portion of the 16.8% one-month price hike that cargo planes reported in July, U.S.-owned cargo planes, meanwhile, cut their prices from a month ago by 7.1% in August. That left air cargo prices still 18.5% above year-ago levels. Because of the unexpectedly strong price ramp-up so far this year, our new annual inflation rate forecast for air cargo transportation prices (on scheduled flights) has been raised slightly to 8.8% in 2010 and lowered slightly to 2.8% in 2011.


Average prices for shipping on inland waters increased 2.8% in August on the heels of a 2.9% hike in July. Excluding inland waterways towing, which increased only 0.8% from July to August, then inland waterways prices actually registered a one-month 3.1% increase and same-month-year-ago price jump of 15.5% in August. So, even though August also saw a 2.2% decline in coastal and intercoastal freight transport, no change in deep sea prices of U.S.-owned companies, and a 0.7% hike in Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway freight transportation, we've raised the aggregate water transportation price forecast to 8.4% in 2010 and 5.5% in 2011.


Less than stellar economic conditions have helped to put fresh pressure on rail operators. After rising for 14 straight months, overall rail rates edged down 0.67% in August. Rates for carload service led the path downward by slipping 0.62%, following two consecutive months of price hikes. Intermodal rail rates weren't far behind, down 0.58%, but that one followed June and July price declines. In aggregate, the rail industry pushed transaction prices up 4.6% from year-ago levels. Ever since hitting a deflationary low point in Q2 of 2009, rail prices have been growing on a fairly predictable trajectory. We now forecast a 5.1% annual price hike by the time 2010 closes and another 4.6% increase in 2011.

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Article Topics

· Air Cargo · Freight · Railroad · Transportation · All topics


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