Fleet Management

Truckload Rates Improving, Intermodal Falling

March 23, 2015

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A measure of freight rates in one trucking sector improved in February over the past year, but declined from the month before.

The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, which measures the monthly change in linehaul rates across North America, rose 6.6% year-over-year, but posted a 1.3% drop from January.

Despite the month-to-month decline, the investment firm Avondale Partners, which provides analysis of the index, is forecasting with demand increasing and capacity remaining extraordinarily tight, contract rate increases should continue to filter into the index at higher levels.

“We would point out that contract pricing, which applies to more than 95% of the public carriers' freight, has been accelerating after a drawn-out bid season last year,” said Avondale. “As a result, although spot market pricing has decelerated somewhat, it remains strong, we are not surprised to see the index continue to post mid-to-high single digit gains and we expect this to continue into the first quarter of 2015.”

Avondale said it sees truckload pricing increasing between 4% and 9% in 2015, depending on how much rate increase each carrier was successful in obtaining in 2014 and when those rate increases were achieved.

The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index includes all costs associated with movements such as linehaul, fuel and accessorials charges.

Meantime, a reading of the intermodal market shows a decline in rates during February, 1.8% year-over-year and 2.3% from January.

The drops Cass Intermodal Linehaul Index follow a 0.3% decline in January from the same time a year earlier.

According to Avondale, intermodal rates are expected to continue to fall in 2015 as the dramatic drop in diesel prices, and even more dramatic drop in oil, causes mode-shifting from domestic intermodal back to truckload.

“The extent to which this shift will occur is dependent on trucking capacity, but the greater than 15 cents per mile decline in fuel surcharges collected by truckers in the last six months, with most of that decline coming in the most recent month, will certainly challenge demand and pricing power for domestic intermodal.”

The Cass Intermodal Linehaul Index isolates the linehaul component of full truckload costs from other components, such as fuel and accessorials, providing a reflection of trends in baseline truckload prices.

Data within both measures is derived from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of Cass Information System clients, which totaled over $23 billion in 2013, accordign to the company.

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