Freight shipments rose by 0.5 percent, year over year, and increased by 5.6 percent when compared to January, according to the Cass Freight Index.
January’s numbers showed a 4.8 percent, month-to-month drop.
Expenditures fell by 1 percent when compared to February 2012, but rose by 1.8 percent from January.
These increases reversed a downward spiral that had spanned four months, but that doesn’t mean volatility is over for any of the modes. The report found that strong economic indicators aren’t translating to freight stability; in fact, freight demand is weak despite optimism in other sectors.
Rail was a big driver of freight in February, with car loadings and intermodal units up by 3.7 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively, compared to January. These increases belie the volatile nature of the rail market; both statistics fell for two weeks after showing strong gains for the first half of the month.
On the trucking side, the Cass report found itself at odds with sunnier numbers reported by the American Trucking Associations, most likely because while the weight of shipments rose, leading to better ATA numbers, the actual amount of freight transported didn’t support the ATA’s findings.
Exports and imports at the nation’s ports showed increases last month.
Economic indicators painted a mixed picture last month. The housing, construction and auto markets are all up, pointing to good news for the industry, but high fuel prices, weak retail sales, and the ongoing federal budget issues are bad news for all the modes.
Cass predicts that March will look much the same as the first two months of the year and that predictions beyond the very vague are impossible due to economic issues. - Jon Ross