Tallies, totals and other trend data in the freight transportation realm



FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) for February fell two points from January to -11.8, its lowest point during the pandemic, FTR reported on April 20. Shipping conditions in February were “severely impacted by tight capacity and high rates,” the forecasting firm said, adding that an expected stabilization in fuel costs “could help mitigate the pain somewhat” by summer. “Widespread weather-related disruptions in February weakened the conditions in the marketplace for shippers as capacity tightened and rates increased,” said Todd Tranausky, FTR’s vice president of rail and intermodal. “Going forward, catch-up freight volumes from disrupted businesses are likely to keep capacity tight in the coming weeks and months. As things normalize, the market will improve slightly as time goes on.”


The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 5.1% in March after falling 2.3% in February, the association announced on April 20. “March’s drop comes as somewhat of a surprise,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “I certainly heard from many fleets that the end-of-quarter rush was good, but early March was soft.” The data “does not change” his “positive outlook going forward,” Costello said.


First quarter U.S. GDP growth (to be released April 29) is expected to be 6% annualized, the fastest growth of any quarter since 2003.” — RESIDCO email newsletter issued April 23.  RESIDCO specializes in structured solutions for acquisitions, financing and dispositions regarding rail equipment leasing in North America.


For the week ending April 17, 9 of the 10 reporting carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2020, the Association of American Railroads reported April 21 in its weekly rail traffic report. The commodity groups included coal, up 13,166 carloads, to 61,600; motor vehicles and parts, up 10,606 carloads, to 12,549; and metallic ores and metals, up 7,533 carloads, to 24,803, AAR said.


In March, the shipments component of the Cass Freight Index® “reaccelerated” to a 10% year-over-year increase, “recovering from the slowdown to 4.1% in February from the polar vortex and then some,” Cass Information Systems Inc. reported on April 16. “This freight volume improvement is consistent with our optimistic outlook, supported by inventory levels, consumer trends, and the backlog of freight anchored off U.S. ports,” Cass officials added. “Near-term supply chain risks remain and, following the Suez Canal blockage, could briefly spread beyond the semiconductor shortages that will affect vehicle production at least through Q2 and perhaps considerably longer.” And if the Cass Index "just takes a normal seasonal pattern from here, it will be up over 30% year-over-year in the second quarter, they said.


Equipment and software investment growth is “expected to be robust this year as businesses invest to adapt to a post-pandemic normal,” according to the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation (ELFA). The foundation now forecasts annual equipment and software investment growth of 11.2 percent for 2021, and annual U.S. GDP growth of 5.7 percent, according to the second-quarter update to the 2021 Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook, which ELFA released April 14. “Finally, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Scott Thacker, ELFA chair and CEO  Executive Officer of Ivory Consulting Corp. “The widespread availability of vaccinations offers hope that economic activity will soon return to pre-pandemic levels, or beyond. The robust stimulus efforts, along with trillions of dollars in pent-up demand, point to a wave of spending this summer and fall. All indicators point to 2021 being a banner year for equipment and software investment, and the equipment finance industry is poised to benefit from that expected economic activity.”  


Less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier Old Dominion Freight Line reported a 14.1% year-over-year increase in revenue “due primarily to an 8.3% increase in LTL tons and a 5.6% increase in LTL revenue per hundredweight,” said President and CEO Greg Gantt in announcing the company’s first-quarter earnings. “In addition, we believe the domestic economy is getting stronger while industry capacity is generally limited.” 


During the fourth quarter, the average truckload fleet operated 36,315 miles between unscheduled road repairs — “largely in line” with previous quarters, but the frequency of unscheduled road repairs “varied widely between the three verticals,” according to the results of the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council’s fourth-quarter 2020 TMC/FleetNet America Vertical Benchmarking Program survey, released April 21. Truckload carriers saw a 14% improvement over the third quarter’s total, running 25,599 miles between breakdowns. The tank vertical saw a slight increase in roadside failures compared to Q3’s total, running 19,983 miles between breakdowns. And the LTL vertical increased from 46,525 miles between breakdowns in Q3 to 55,823 in the fourth quarter. “The data tells us that if, for example, the truckload carriers running the average miles between breakdowns could reach best-in-class performance, they would increase their miles between breakdowns by 55%, and that would result in overall lower costs,” said Emily Hurst, FleetNet America’s manager of data and analytics.


“Outbound tender volumes continue to rise, increasing by 5.45% week over week. … Current outbound volumes are 73.6% higher than 2020 and 56.7% higher than 2019.” — Schneider National Inc.’s Shipping and Transportation Market update report, issued April 16.


At 76.1, the April 2021 Monthly Confidence Index for the Equipment Finance Industry (MCI-EFI) represents “an all-time high” and an increase from the March index of 67.7, the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation said in an April 22 release. “We are starting to see pent-up demand for goods and services leading to expanded capital budgets for equipment to produce it and transportation to deliver it,” said MCI-EFI survey respondent Aylin Cankardes, president of Rockwell Financial Group. “With favorable interest rates, businesses are increasing spending again to stay responsive in a rapidly evolving environment.” Also: 73.3% of executives responding said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, up from 50% in March. And 70% believe demand for leases and loans to fund capex will increase over the next four months, up from 42.9% in March. The index reports “a qualitative assessment of the prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future as reported by key executives from the $900 billion equipment finance sector,” as the foundation puts it.


As of April 26, 409 stakeholders had submitted letters supporting the proposed CN-Kansas City Southern transaction, CN said, adding that it planned to submit the letters to the Surface Transportation Board that same day.


As of April 23, 416 shippers and stakeholders had filed statements in support of the planned combination between Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Kansas City Southern, CP announced.


“…the first thing we're focused on is making sure that the STB sets up a level playing field for all Class I mergers and in that does not apply the waiver that they created potentially for the KCS back in 2000-2001. We think those new 2001 merger rules should apply to every Class I merger, so that the STB has a full opportunity to vet the game plan to enhance competition by the transaction.” — Union Pacific Railroad President and CEO Lance Fritz during the railroad’s Q1 earnings conference, in response to a question regarding the proposed Canadian Pacific Railroad-Kansas City Southern and CN-KCS mergers.

3.01 billion

Pegged at $1.58 billion in 2019, Canada’s third-party logistics market is projected to reach $3.01 billion by 2027, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.0 from 2020 to 2027, according to a report published April 12 by Allied Market Research. The “rise in focus of manufacturers and retailers on core competencies and developments of the e-commerce industry have boosted the growth” of the Canadian 3PL market, according to the firm. “The beauty and cosmetics segment are projected to register the highest CAGR of 10.3% during the forecast period.”