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


6 & 8

The National Retail Federation expects retail sales will grow between 6 percent and 8 percent to more than $4.86 trillion in 2022. “We should see durable growth this year given consumer confidence to continue this expansion, notwithstanding risks related to inflation, COVID-19 and geopolitical threats,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said on March 15.


“Ukraine is a significant producer of uranium, titanium, iron ore, steel, ammonia, and agricultural products. Rising fuel, commodity, and fertilizer prices will impact inflation in Europe and the U.S. Prior to the invasion the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the consumer price index rose 7.5% over the last 12 months (core inflation which excludes food and energy rose 6%). U.S. consumer price inflation is at its highest level in last 40 years and is now expected to go higher.” — March 9 newsletter from RESIDCO titled “War & Inflation Converge, Pitfalls & Opportunities Emerge.” RESIDCO is a transportation equipment lessor and asset management company that operates and manages a freight-car and locomotive fleet.


“U.S. freight volumes regained ground in February after a significant January Omicron impact, with the shipments component of the Cass Freight Index up 8.6% from January, and up 3.6% y/y. The 3.6% m/m increase in the shipments component of the Cass Freight Index reversed almost half of the 7.4% Omicron-related decline in January. … Omicron effects lingered into February, so we would expect further sequential improvement in March. War-related effects on freight volume are likely to be small in the near-term, but higher energy prices will have an increasingly negative effect over time.” — Cass Transportation Index February 2022, issued March 14


FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index for January fell to 11.46 from 14.45 in December amid rising diesel prices, FTR officials said on March 14. Although “more robust freight rates” more than offset higher fuel costs, freight volume was “a significantly weaker positive factor than it had been in December,” they said. Meanwhile, the record surge in fuel costs in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “certainly will hit trucking conditions in the near term, but the longer-term effects of geopolitical tensions are not yet clear,” FTR officials said.


At China’s port of Ningbo, average prices for a 40 feet high cube container fell by 10% approximately from $5,930 on Feb. 14 to $5,329 on Feb. 27, logistics tech company Container xChange reported on March 14. As of March 10, prices stood at $5,248. And average prices fell by 10% to 15% at the ports of Shanghai, Qingdao and Shenzhen by March 11, the firm reported, with the Port of Shenzhen seeing an 8% decline the past two weeks, Container xChange officials said. But on March 13, China announced “mass complete/partial lockdowns for curbing” the coronavirus, they added. And lockdowns in Shenzhen, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Jilin, Suzhou, Guangzhou and Beijing (19 provinces in all as of March 13) “will clearly heavily restrict container movement at these ports which will, as we’ve seen in the past, prove to be further damaging for the global supply chain,” Container xChange officials said. “Clearly, 2022 has not brought any cheer to the supply chain industry. On top of this, war will just prove to be another disruption amongst the other innumerable factors for China’s supply chain.”  


“Perhaps the best response to the STB Inquisition comes this morning from BNSF and JBHunt expanding their historic partnership, growing their box fleet by ~40% in the next 3-5yrs, a solid bet on service in the most competitive of marketplaces.” — March 16 tweet from independent transportation analyst Tony Hatch (@ABHatch18) during an STB hearing on proposed reciprocal switching reforms (via @commtrex)


Confidence in the equipment finance market eased in March, according to the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation’s March 2022 Monthly Confidence Index for the Equipment Finance Industry. The Index — which provides a qualitative assessment of the prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future as reported by executives from the $900 billion equipment finance sector — stands at 58.2 this month, down from the February index of 61.8, the foundation reported on March 17. “Supply chain issues continue to hamper equipment availability,” said survey respondent Michael Romanowski, president of Farm Credit Leasing. “The Ukraine conflict has enhanced volatility and is contributing to an already unsettled environment. We continue to work closely with our partners and customers to ensure we are advancing our mission in these uncertain times.”


On March 12, Railroad Development Corp. Chairman Henry Posner III worked as a Russian translator on an RDC-D train carrying 480 Ukrainians from the city of Frankfurt/Oder on the Polish-German border to Hannover, where a reception center to welcome and process refugees was set up in a large exhibition hall, according to the American Short Line and Regional Railroads Association’s (ASLRRA) March 16 Views & News. Posner, who was in the country on a planned trip when the opportunity to help arose, was one of only two Russian speakers on the train that day, according to ASLRRA.


Preliminary trailer orders “held steady” in February at 24,600 units, down 5% month over month and down 4/% year over year, FTR reported on March 14. Trailer orders for the past twelve months have totaled 242,000 units. “The tight holding pattern in the industry continues,” said Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles. “OEMs are reluctant to book more orders when the supply chain is still clogged. The commercial trailer industry is the most stable it’s ever been. OEMs will increase production as soon as they can get more parts, components, and workers. When this finally breaks loose, order volumes will jump substantially."


The Trucking Cares Foundation will donate more than $40,000 to a trio of organizations involved in Ukrainian humanitarian relief efforts, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) officials said on March 16. The foundation’s board approved donations totaling $42,500 to three organizations involved in relief efforts in Ukraine and its neighbors: Save the Children, the International Red Cross and the United Nations Children's Fund. The organizations were recommended by the group Trucking & Logistics Professionals for Ukraine, according to ATA.

100 million

“The global seesaw that is the oil markets rests on a fragile fulcrum composed of facts that are difficult to determine. One thing we do know is that global oil demand is about 100 million barrels per day. If we only produce 98 million barrels per day of this inelastic commodity, inventories will deplete and prices will soar. On the other hand, overproduce by merely 5 million barrels per day and within several months the world will struggle to find suitable storage for the oil and prices will plummet. Once that spigot gets turned on, it is really tough to close. It’s hard to believe that a variation of only a few percentage points can whipsaw prices so much, but that’s what happens when every living being on Earth competes for this stored energy from the sun.” — Ernie Barsamian, CEO and Principal of terminal storage clearinghouse, broker and Intermediary The Tank Tiger, in the March 15 edition of “The Tank Tiger Bulletin”

25 billion

“Day 2 STB dragging on; slightly better for RRs (but most STB minds made up?); probably not best timing for WSJ to report record buybacks w/ ‘Union Pacific leading the way (w/plan) valued at $25B’ given Chairman’s disdain for Street’s influence on RRs not on shippers?!” — March 16 tweet from independent transportation analyst Tony Hatch (@ABHatch18) during an STB hearing on proposed reciprocal switching reforms (via @commtrex)

25 billion

The global shipping and port industry is susceptible to billions of dollars in infrastructure damage and trade disruption from climate change impacts, according to a report issued March 14 by by nonprofit research institute RTI International for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Climate change impacts could cost the shipping industry up to $25 billion every year by the end of the century, said writers of the report, which is titled "Act Now or Pay Later: The Costs of Climate Inaction for Ports and Shipping." ... “Just as the COVID-19 pandemic threw our ports and the global supply chain into crisis mode, the climate emergency will have major consequences for international shipping," said Marie Hubatova, senior manager for EDF's Global Transport team. "In the face of climate breakdown, however, the shipping industry has an early warning bell and an opportunity to act. By stepping up to reduce emissions and invest in zero-carbon fuels, shipping leaders could help avoid these costly consequences and build a more sustainable future for the industry.”





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