Truckload linehaul and intermodal rates are continuing their declines despite some slight improvements, according to two new reports.
The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index decreased 3.5% year-over-year in September. While this marks the seventh straight year-over-year drop, the latest reading of 123 is the highest since April, due in part to a month-over-month improvement of 1.3% following a drop of 0.9% in August and a hike of 1.1% in July.
Analysts at Avondale Partners predict that rates will remain about the same through mid-2017, thanks to softening demand and increasing capacity, ranging from 3% lower to 1% higher.
The investment bank also cited other factors putting pressure on pricing, including carrier bankruptcies at historic lows, truck counts up by single digits, and the relaxation of the 34-hour restart rule for drivers.
The index is an indicator of market fluctuations in per-mile truckload pricing, isolating the linehaul component of full truckload costs from other components, such as fuel and accessorials, providing a reflection of trends in baseline truckload prices.
Meantime, a gauge of intermodal rates fell only 0.7% in September compared to a year earlier, its smallest year-over-year drop since January 2015.
The Cass Intermodal Index moved 1.1% lower in September from August, to a reading of 124.2, following monthly gains of 1.6% in August and 2% in July, with average monthly decreases of 2.4% over the previous 20 months.
Despite this reprieve, Avondale Partners expects intermodal rates to continue their decline through the remainder of 2016 as lower oil prices negatively impact U.S. domestic demand.
"We have historically observed a high degree of correlation between truckload and intermodal pricing, and know that should truckload rates accelerate in the coming months, intermodal rates would normally follow," Avondale said. "That said, contract rates for trucking have been losing strength, even going negative in many lanes, which would imply even more potential weakness for intermodal pricing."
The Cass Intermodal Price Index measures market fluctuations in per-mile U.S. domestic intermodal costs and includes all costs associated with the move, such as linehaul, fuel and accessorials.
It and the truckload linehaul index compare to baseline costs as of January 2005 and use a base value of 100. Both are derived from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of Cass’ Information Systems clients, which totaled $25 billion in 2015.