Money spent on domestic freight shipments rose 5.2 percent from August to September, the largest increase since March, as shipment volume rose 2.7 percent, month-over-month, according to Cass Information Systems.
Compared to September 2012, freight expenditures were up 5.2 percent, but shipments had only increased 0.1 percent. Even so, Cass classifies the September increase in shipments as a peak-season bump driven not by preparations for the holiday season but by manufacturing growth.
In fact, the year-over-year number for shipments, while small, is quite an improvement; monthly volumes when compared to 2012 levels have all turned up negative since April. When compared to the same period in 2011, though, September shipments are down 3.7 percent.
The September rise in expenditures comes after a drop from July to August, and expenditures have now topped monthly results in 2012 and 2011 for the fourth consecutive month.
“Although there has been some upward pressure on spot rates in recent weeks, rates for the most part have been flat to only slightly up,” the organization wrote in its September Freight Index Report
. “Higher load-to-truck ratios (more volume per truck), as well as greater volumes shipped, explain the higher expenditures, rather than rate increases."
In the trucking world, demand and capacity are balanced, but shippers, according to Cass, are seeing a capacity crunch on the horizon, so have been shoring up space with carriers.
“The trucking industry is still in a precarious balance, with over 95 percent capacity utilization and an abundance of regulatory and cost pressures that indicate a looming capacity problem,” Cass wrote. “The tricky part is forecasting when it will occur.”