The freight logistics sector slowed in July, following a seasonal trend, with both freight shipments and freight payments down 3.9 percent from the previous month. This drop was consistent with previous summers' drops, so should not be seen as the start of a decline in freight for the second half of 2014.
Shipment volume and total freight payments continued to climb in March, ending the first quarter of the year on a high note. Bad weather continued to plague many parts of the country, but transportation seemed to be less affected than in January and February.
While 2013 was a complicated year from a purely economic point of view, the major events contributing to this had very little impact on freight, according to Rosalyn Wilson, senior business analyst for Delcan Corporation. Her overview of the freight industry in 2013 follows.
North American shipment volume continued on a downward path in November, according to the Cass Freight Index. The dip was not unexpected, as this is the same weak year-end movement observed for the last three years. Stronger than expected manufacturing activity and shipments of seasonal goods offset a general slowing of freight movements to temper the drop in shipment levels.
October was a depressed month for freight and the economy in general. The number of shipments and freight expenditures both declined from September, by 3.5 and 2.6 percent, respectively. This marks only the second time this year that both indexes declined in the same month. (Shipment volume in April dropped 3.5 percent, but expenditures fell only 1.6 percent.) The 16-day federal government shutdown is partly to blame for the declines, but prior to the shutdown the economy was already exhibiting signs of a cool down.
North American freight shipments rose modestly in September, a month usually associated with a peak season increase. This month's 2.2-percent increase can be attributed, however, more to contingency planning for the anticipated International Longshoreman's Association (ILA) dock workers strike than to a seasonal surge in orders. Although federal mediators stepped in at the last minute and negotiated a three-month extension to continue talks, many shippers had already scrambled to re-schedule October shipments for September. The alternative, should the strike have occurred, was to reroute goods to the West Coast, where carriers were charging strike surcharges ranging from $300 to $1,000.
Truckload pricing remained constant from July to August according to the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, which for the second month in a row registered a value of 109.5. On a year-over-year basis, truckload rates are up 1.0 percent. After seeing substantial year-over-year growth rates last year and early in 2012, truckload pricing has continued to see its rate of growth move down over the last few months, according to Avondale Partners' recent report.