January 8, 2014 8:30 AM, EST
Cass Freight Index Declines in December
Paul Taggart/Bloomberg News

The Cass Freight Index, which measures shipment activity in trucking and other transport modes, declined 3.2% in December from a year ago. Expenditures increased 1% from 2012.

Expenditures — freight payments to carriers by shippers that are processed by Cass — declined 5.4% from November, St. Louis-based Cass Information Systems said.

Month-to-month, shipments fell 6.2% from November, the third consecutive decline and largest drop in 2013.

“Despite the fact that there were fewer shipments in 2013, other indicators, such as the American Trucking Associations’ Truck Tonnage Index, have shown that loads have been getting heavier. This matches well with anecdotal evidence from [less-than-truckload carriers] that they are carrying fuller loads,” Cass said in its report.

“As we have experienced for several years now, the first quarter came on strong, then we muddled our way through the rest of the year and entered the following year just slightly above where we were the previous January. Freight shipment volumes experienced five three-year lows during 2013, while freight expenditures hit eight three-year highs,” according to the report.

“My prediction is that freight growth will still be measurably stronger in 2014 [albeit slow and uneven]. Volumes will be up consistently for several months, putting pressure on capacity before we see a rise in rates. The virtual rate freeze that has existed for almost three years should thaw and give way to higher freight expenditures by the second half of the year due to higher costs and volumes,” the report stated.