The August edition of the Cass Freight Index, which was issued this week by Cass Information Systems, pointed to freight gains hitting a 4.5-year high, with rates down for the third consecutive month.
Many freight transportation and logistics executives and analysts consider the Cass Freight Index to be the most accurate barometer of freight volumes and market conditions, with many analysts noting that the Cass Freight Index sometimes leads the American Trucking Associations (ATA) tonnage index at turning points, which lends to the value of the Cass Freight Index.
August’s shipment reading—at 1.278—increased 3.6% annually, topping July’s 1.9% annual gain (upwardly revised from an initial 0.4% reading) and were up 6.6% sequentially and up 5.5% sequentially on a seasonally-adjusted basis. On a two-year stacked change basis, shipments were up 16.3%. This marks the highest shipment reading going back to May 2018.
The report’s author Tim Denoyer, ACT Research vice president and senior analyst, wrote that this reading stands above most other August freight indicators, with the caveat that several of the soft August freight indicators are from the spot market, with the stronger data reflecting an ongoing shift from spot to contract, to an extent.
“The improvement may not be sustainable, especially as pressure increases on interest rate sensitive sectors like capital goods and housing, but the summer improvement likely reflects a combination of: successful discounting by retailers; seasonal inventory building ahead of the holidays; and reversal of China lockdown effects in June/July,” wrote Denoyer.
August freight expenditures—at 4.614—increased 20.4% annually and were up 1.9% compared to July and up 2.1% compared to July on a seasonally-adjusted basis. On a two-year stacked change basis, August expenditures rose 71.2%.
“We estimate roughly 7pps-8pps of the y/y increase in the expenditures index is currently due to fuel prices alone, and part of the m/m decline in rates was due to lower fuel prices,” wrote Denoyer. “This index includes changes in fuel, modal mix, intramodal mix and accessorial charges. Simply following normal seasonality from here, this index is on track for a 24% increase in 2022 and would turn down on a y/y basis next February.”