While May’s Cass Freight Index showed some improvement in activity over the previous month, the index for both shipments and expenditures came in 20% below May 2019.
According to Cass Information Systems, while June is normally the best month of the second quarter, the industry will probably not reach 2019 freight activity levels until 2021 at the earliest.
While May shipment volumes dropped 23.6% versus a year ago levels, the index inched higher by 1.6% over April, showing “a continued severe weakness in the U.S. economy that is counter to the stock market surge we saw from mid-May until the pull-back this week,” according to Dave Ross, managing director and group head of Stifel’s Global Transportation & Logistics Equity Research and author of the report.
Freight expenditures also fell in May, down 21.2% year over year, falling even lower than April. While it fell 5.7% last month, the low has still not reached the record-setting drop seen in May 2009, when the country was battling a recession.
“Our view remains that it has been a mix issue in that the freight that has been moving has a higher revenue per shipment, due to longer average length of haul and/or other characteristics. And those customers who remained opened for business had a higher freight cost per shipment than those who were closed,” wrote Ross. “We believe expenditures on an apples-to-apples basis were down more than volume, and lower fuel surcharges are offering shippers at least some near-term relief with respect to their freight budgets.”