New U.S. Bank Indexes Track Freight Shipping and Spending

ATA's Bob Costello
Costello by Joseph Terry/Transport Topics

ORLANDO, Fla. — Freight spending jumped in the third quarter despite a slowdown in shipment as businesses were hit by the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to the U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index, a new quarterly gauge that tracks the health of the shipping industry.

U.S. Bank showcased the index here Oct. 22 at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

The freight payment index measures changes in both shipment and spending activity and is based on transactions processed through U.S. Bank Freight Payment. The bank processes about $23 billion in global freight payments from the automotive, manufacturing, food, retail and other industries.

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For the third quarter the Freight Payment Index rose a steady 3.3%, though that was down from its blistering 5.8% second-quarter increase.

The slowdown was due to the hurricanes as shippers scrambled to find trucks, noted Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, who will be providing commentary on the index numbers.

Meanwhile this demand for trucks is demonstrated by the dramatic 8.3% rise in U.S. Bank’s National Spend Index. The jump is the highest since the last quarter of 2014.

“The Spend Index outpaced shipments and that should continue,” said Costello.

The shipping and spend indexes also track the data on a regional basis, breaking down the country into the West, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast regions, based on the state of origin of the shipment. Hurricane Harvey in Texas impacted the Southeast’s numbers, as shipments rose a meager 0.1% in contrast to a 10% growth rate in the Northeast. However, the Midwest region shipments rose 13.3%, driven by a rebound in general manufacturing activity, according to Costello.


Holland by Joseph Terry/Transport Topics

The index offers an alternative to the monthly Cass Freight Index. Along with drawing on U.S. Bank processing numbers, the index will gather quarterly statistics, provide the regional breakdown, and offer Costello’s insight.

The U.S. Bank Freight Index aggregated data goes back to 2010. The index was launched to help the industry use the huge data generated by the bank’s freight payment group, said Bobby Holland, director of consulting services for U.S. Bank Freight Payment.