The Cass Freight Index, which measures shipment activity in trucking and other transport modes, edged up 0.1% in September from a year ago, while expenditures jumped by the most since March.
Expenditures — freight payments to carriers by shippers that are processed by Cass — rose 5.2% in September on both a year-over-year and month-to-month basis, St. Louis-based Cass Information Systems said. Month-to-month, shipments rose 2.7% in September from August.
Higher load-to-truck ratios — more volume per truck — as well as greater volumes shipped explained the higher expenditures, rather than rate increases.
“For the first time since the recession, we experienced a peak shipping season bump in volume,” Cass said. “This increase was driven mostly by a return to growth in the manufacturing sector rather than to stocking up for back-to-school or the holiday season.”
The trucking industry “is still in a precarious balance, with over 95% capacity utilization and an abundance of regulatory and cost pressures that indicate a looming capacity problem,” the report said, adding that “the tricky part is forecasting when it will occur.”