Truckload Linehaul Rates Hit Record High, Intermodal Continues Surge

November 21, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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A measure of truckload linehaul rates hit an all-time high last month, according to one latest measure, while a separate report showed another gain when it comes to intermodal rates.

Truckload shipping costs, linehaul only, increased 5.5% in October compared to the same time a year earlier, according to the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, which hit a reading of 132.5. This marked its highest level on record, which goes back to 2005.

Linehaul costs have not only been up over 2016 for the last seven months, but these increases have been growing larger.

“In just the last 120 days, our pricing forecast for 2017 has improved from -1% to 2%, to no change to 2%, to 2% to 4%, as the current strength being reported in spot rates by DAT Solutions is leading us to believe contract pricing rates should keep rates in positive territory through the end of the year,” said Donald Broughton of Broughton Capital Partners, who provides analysis of the numbers.

The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index measures market fluctuations in per-mile truckload pricing that isolates the linehaul component of full truckload costs from others, such as fuel and accessorials, providing a reflection of trends in baseline truckload prices.

Meantime, the Cass Intermodal Price Index showed total intermodal costs per mile rose 1.9% year-over-year in October, with the measure at 132.8, its highest level since April.

Compared to September, intermodal costs increased 2.9%, while October marked the thirteenth consecutive month of year-over-year increases.

The index established its most recent peak in March at 135.4 as diesel flirted with $2.60 a gallon, and has sequentially trended lower since, as diesel fell back toward $2.50 a gallon in July, according to Broughton. And now, he is predicting another rise in fuel costs, which could lead to even higher intermodal rates.

“We now expect it to exceed March’s peak by the end of the year,” he said. “Longer term, we continue to foresee oil trading in the $45 to $55 [per barrel] range and diesel in the $2.25 to $2.75 [per gallon] range throughout 2017, sans the refining interruption pressure produced by the recent hurricanes.”

The Cass Intermodal Price Index measures market fluctuations in per-mile U.S. domestic intermodal costs. It includes all costs associated with the move, such as linehaul, fuel and accessorials.

Data within both measures comes from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of clients of freight-payment processor Cass Information Services, which totals nearly $21 billion annually.

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