Transportation Industry Updates April 2018

Every month we take a look at the most recent transportation industry trends to help plan for the future. Discover the industry trends for April 2018.

U.S. Trucking

The American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index increased 5.7% year over year in February, slowing slightly from the 8.4% year over year gain in January. As a three-month moving average, tonnage was up 7.2% year over year in February. Tonnage is up 7.1% year over year, which is faster than last year’s 3.8% year over year growth rate.

Dry-van spot market rates in March were $2.25 per mile on a four-week rolling average, up 32% year over year. Industry contacts expect 2018 rates to increase 6-9% year over year, the first significant year over year increases since 2015. March flatbed rates in the spot market were $2.51 per mile on a trailing four-week basis, up 27% year over year.

Average truckload rates were up 7.2% year over year in March excluding fuel surcharges and accessorial fees, according to the Cass Information Systems. This is the strongest growth rate since January 2015, and is a result of capacity scarcity due to improving demand trends. Average contact dry-van truckload rates in 2018 are expected to be up 6-9% year over year.

Global Airfreight, Containerized Ocean Traffic

U.S. container imports were up 7.1% year over year in March. Year-to-date imports are up 11.7% year over year. Volume will likely grow mid-single digits year over year in 2018 due to improving industrial markets and better inventory positions.

During March, eastbound trans-Pacific ocean container spot rates from Hong Kong to the U.S. West Coast declined. 2018 spot market rates are expected to remain fairly range-bound at current levels. 2018 contract rates will likely decline slightly given growth forecasts in excess of demand.

Airfreight rates in February were up 15% year over year, and up month over month. The continued growth of airfreight rates is being driven by higher air cargo demand.

Rail Trends

During the first quarter of 2018, CSX volumes were down 3.2% year over year, while Norfolk Southern were up 2.6% year over year during the same time frame. Norfolk Southern is gaining market shares from CSX due to recent strategic/service changes at CSX. Union Pacific’s volumes were up 1.5% year over year during the first quarter of 2018 while BNSF volumes were up 4.7% year over year. BNSF growth is faster due to intermodal and grain volumes.

In March, intermodal prices were up nearly 6% year over year, growing at their fastest rate since early 2012. Intermodal price increases are being supported by rising truckload prices. Recent service issues have pushed intermodal prices higher as intermodal competes for space on Class-1 rail carriers.

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