The April Cass Shipments Index released today shows a 4 percent year-over-year gain, leading analysts to “cautiously” predict freight numbers will continue to improve.
However, the report noted, as e-commerce continues to gain momentum, “we are becoming more focused on the number of loads moved by truck and less focused on the number of tons moved by truck.”
For example, although tonnage was up 2.49 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis in January, February tonnage was 2.73 and minus 0.07 percent in March, pulling down the three-month moving average to just 0.35 percent.
Dry van truckloads have contracted on a year-over-year basis five out of the last eight months, with the American Trucking Associations showing February tonnage down 3.29 percent.
Parcel volumes associated with e-commerce continue to show outstanding rates of growth, with both FedEx and UPS showing strong U.S. volumes.
“Recent tepid results by brick and mortar retailers appear to be taking their toll,” the report continued.
Both Cass’s shipments and expenditures indexes have been positive for four months in a row, which indicates the first positive figures back in October was a trend and not a fluke, the latest Cass Index Report stated.
“Data is suggesting that the consumer is finally starting to spend a little, albeit not with brick and mortar retailers,” the report said, adding that the industrial economy has made a modest improvement “led by the fracking of drilled, uncompleted wells,” especially in fields with a lower marginal production cost.
Also, it noted, “the overall freight recession, which began in March 2015, appears to be over” and that “freight seems to be gaining momentum in most segments.”
From March, April saw a 3.7 percent improvement, noteworthy because March traditionally is a stronger month.
Expenditures, the total amount spent on freight, turned positive this past January for the first time in 22 months and April continued the trend with a 6 percent increase in expenditures, the report noted.