Cass Freight Index® Archive


February 2024 - The month of February brought more encouraging signs that a freight recovery is beginning. Shipment volumes increased 7.3% from January, slightly ahead of m/m seasonal expectations. And while they remained lower than last year (-4.5% y/y), the gap continues to close. With normal seasonality, shipments will be down just -1% y/y in March and turn positive y/y in May.

January 2024 - The average cost of a shipment was down -2.6% in the 10th consecutive month of double-digit y/y decreases. While trucking demand remains soft overall, rising import and intermodal trends are key leading indicators of a recovery in trucking this year.


December 2023 - Freight rates showed continued stabilization in December in both our Inferred Freight Rates series and the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index. Truckload linehaul rates were in line with August, and inferred rates were in line with September.

November 2023 - General U.S. economic conditions remain better than those in the for-hire freight market. Rates and volumes remain low, and operating authorities are being revoked at a record net pace, which continues to remove supply from the market.

October 2023 - The for-hire freight market continues to bounce along the bottom of the economic cycle that started 22 months ago. Shipping volumes hit a cycle low in October. Truckload linehaul rates are at their lowest, and our measurement of the average cost of a shipment, our inferred freight rates, is just above last month’s low point. 

September 2023 - With both the shipments component of the Cass Freight Index and the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index rising sequentially this month, the freight cycle is at least starting to flatten out, with smaller y/y declines. We continue to expect the freight cycle to turn once capacity tightens, but early signs of 2024 equipment production suggest that may be a while.

August 2023 - Despite overall growth of the economy, for-hire freight volumes were down 10% in August. Growing private fleets are playing a part.  

July 2023 - While the general economy continues to improve, the freight economy isn't keep up. With demand still down, freight costs for shippers continues to fall, averaging -1.5% per month for the last 12 months.

June 2023 - The dynamics of the freight market continue to shift, leading us into the late phase of the freight cycle. Shippers are in a position of power, with rates still falling and near bottom. In the next phase, the balance will begin to shift.

May 2023 - Moving along in the freight downcycle that began in January 2022, we appear to be close to the bottom. Freight volumes have been negative vs previous year in six of the last seven months. Rates have been negative (y/y) for six consecutive months.

April 2023 - After a long soft patch in the U.S. freight cycle, we see the industry on the cusp of a new cycle in the months to come. April saw another decline in rates, both month-to-month, and once again on a much larger scale y/y. Shipments were down as well, -1.3% m/m on a seasonally adjusted basis.

March 2023 - North American freight shipment volumes fell slightly in March as freight markets continue to work through an extended soft patch. Year over year, volumes were down 4.0%. Rates continue to decline as well in both the contract and spot markets.

February 2023 - After six years of rising freight costs and two full years of steep increases, February marks a third month of y/y declines. This is seen in our inferred rates data series, which reflects the average all-in cost of a shipment. 

January 2023 - Amidst a mode shift to truckload, shipment volumes fell 3.2% m/m in January. Yet in a moment of unusual stability, overall rates were eerily steady. 


December 2022 - As we enter 2023 with spot rates down significantly, the larger contract market is beginning to adjust down as well. The recent bounce in spot rates along with this activity has begun to tighten the spot/contract spread, suggesting a bottoming phase of the truckload rate cycle.

November 2022 - Included this month: Length of haul distribution by mode for EV analysis. Freight shipment volumes, seasonally adjusted, were down -0.5% in November. Cost per shipment increased 3.7% m/m from October, but this seems to be due to mode mix rather than rates.

October 2022 - After a soft first half of the year, we continue to believe the freight volume improvements in recent months (+2.9% in October) are most likely explained by a combination of temporary factors.

September 2022 - Freight demand remained strong (+5% over last year), buoyed by five factors we believe to be temporary. At the same time, we see rates softening, thanks to considerable buildup of supply over the last two years.

August 2022 - In the U.S. trucking markets, the tight supply/demand balance has been easing considerably this year. This has freight rates topping out and set to slow sharply in the months to come.

July 2022 - With inflation near 9% and significant substitution from goods back to services, freight demand has flattened out this year. July saw a 0.4% y/y increase in North American freight, while overall rates fell slightly from June to July.

June 2022 - Cass data show that shipments in June were down for the 4th time this year while truckload linehaul rates pull back.

May 2022 - The pandemic recovery continues at a faster-than-expected pace. Total spending on freight surged a record 50% in May year over year. Shipping volumes swelled 35%, landing at our second-highest index level ever. Rates, of course, continue their upward march as well. The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index® hit its third sequential record high in May.

April 2022 - North American freight volumes went negative in April. And with spot rates falling and contract rates expected to follow suit, pricing power is shifting from fleets to shippers. In short, the freight cycle has downshifted with a thud, and the prospect of a freight recession is now considerable.

March 2022 - U.S. freight volumes slowed further in March, and rates began to decline as well. Given the ~15% drop in spot rates in the past six weeks, rate trends are set to slow significantly.

February 2022 - The return of healthy workers boosted freight volumes in February a welcome 8.6% m/m. But, we remain a broken record on freight costs … "all-time high" is on repeat. Truckload freight costs hit a new high, and our inferred rates series (cost of a shipment) hit a new high as well. 

January 2022 - U.S. freight volumes reeled, not from a fall in demand, but rather from absenteeism caused by the surge in COVID-19 Omicron cases. This piled new inflationary pressures which helped drive our inferred rates series to a 35% year-over-year increase in the cost of a freight shipment.


December 2021 - Shipment volumes in December increased 7.7% y/y. As 2021 came to a close, shippers were paying 8-11% more in truckload linehaul rates y/y and 33% more per domestic shipment y/y.

November 2021 - Total North American spending on freight hits record high for 8th month this year, and our cost/shipment index (inferred rates) hits a new high. Freight volumes remain capacity-constrained, but the small pickup in our shipments index shows progress as the freight industry works to de-bottleneck.

October 2021 - North American shipment volumes showed a modest rebound with a 0.8% y/y and 2.8% m/m increase. Our expenditures index, measuring the total amount spent on freight, hit a new all-time high of 3.96 - 37% higher than a year ago. The average cost of a shipment has increased about the same amount.

September 2021 - Bottlenecks in the ports and elsewhere caused the number of freight shipments to decline from August to September by nearly 5%. The average cost of a shipment (not the same as rates) spiked to a +31.4% y/y change. And note - ocean freight, which is experiencing the highest level of inflation, is not included in our data.

August 2021 - Freight is strong (up 12% y/y), but the effects of constrained capacity are being felt everywhere. The overall cost of shipping, across a mode mix reflective of the Cass customer base, is up ~27% year over year.

July 2021 - The Cass Inferred Rates data series shows a 24% year-over-year jump in freight costs. Shipping volumes, still strong, slowed again for the second straight month. Rail and LTL, primarily, are stifled due to equipment and driver capacity constraints. This has restrained movement at the ports and the entire supply chain.

June 2021 - Dollars spent on freight in the U.S. rose 56.4%, the largest-ever y/y increase in U.S. freight spending. Shipping volumes were up almost 27%. Running those two numbers against the same data points in 2020 tells us that overall freight rates have risen 23%.

May 2021 - Another record growth year over year, with U.S. freight shipments up 35.3% compared to June 2020. Compared to 2019, up 3.3%. It’s safe to say the pandemic recovery is progressing much faster than the recovery from the Great Recession.

April 2021 - The shipments component of the Cass Freight Index® grew at a record 27.6% y/y - a better-than-expected result in the pandemic recovery.

March 2021 - Dollars spend on U.S. freight hit the third all-time high in four months. Evenly contributing to the 27.5% y/y increase were rising volumes and rising rates. 

February 2021 - The extreme winter weather of mid-February helped slow the healthy growth in freight we saw in January. Shipments grew 4.1% y/y in February (compared to 8.6% growth in January) and only 1.8% month-to-month, which was well below average seasonal growth. 

January 2021 - Shipments were 8.6% higher than January of 2020, but below 2019 levels. On a seasonally adjusted basis, shipments rose 3.0% from December to January (the largest SA m/m increase since September). This acceleration takes us another step closer to the strong growth environment which we expect to continue in 2021, due in no small part to easy comparisons.


December 2020 - Both shipments and expenditures are accelerating into the New Year. With a tight capacity market, freight rates continued to increase, with overall freight rates in the Cass Indexes up 6.0% y/y (all modes). Truckload linehaul rates were up 1.1% y/y in December.

November 2020 - Sequentially, volumes pulled back 2.2% following five consecutive months of strong recovery averaging 5.0% sequential improvement (SA), likely due to the worsening pandemic numbers. Rates paid, however, went up 2.9 from October, now testing the highs posted in late 2018/early 2019. Truckload rates are increasing, a path likely to continue for some months.

October 2020 - Not only does the V-shaped freight recovery continue, but October's shipping volumes surpassed year-ago levels and marked the first positive year-over-year change since November 2018. In freight pricing, the tight truckload market has caused spot rates to reach heights not seen in a very long time. Contract rates are expected to follow suit.

September 2020 - We saw another big month-to-month improvement in shipping, with September volumes up 7% from August. Year over year, volumes were "only" 1.8% below 2019 levels. This is widely seen as positive news.

August 2020 - Further recovery from the pandemic economic fallout with an 8% increase in freight volumes from July. 

July 2020 - A freight recovery, albeit a slow one, is underway. The Cass Freight Index showed sequential volume improvement but still remains well below year-ago levels and also below where we were in the first quarter of the year.

June 2020 - The Cass Freight Index showed sequential volume improvement again in June, although freight volumes still remain well below year-ago levels and also below pre-pandemic levels.

May 2020 - Freight struggles in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following what we believe was the trough in April, the Cass Freight Index® showed some—but only little—improvement.

April 2020 - The Cass Freight Index showed the expected big dip in activity due to coronavirus and nationwide stay-at-home orders, with freight volumes falling 22.7% vs April 2019 levels. March consumer panic buying subsided, leaving us with just the negative impact of shut-in orders and rising unemployment levels. 

March 2020 - The impact of the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-orders begins to be felt. Freight volumes are down 9.2%. April is expected to feel the brunt of it, however.

February 2020 - Freight picks up from January low point, but remains far below normal levels. Imports from China have been severely affected by coronavirus. Coronavirus concerns create uncertainty for the U.S. economy and freight.  

January 2020 - Shipment volumes dropped 9.4% in January vs 2019 levels, as the index posted its lowest absolute reading in roughly three years. It was also the steepest y/y decline since 2009. 


December 2019 - Shipment volumes dropped 7.9% vs December 2018 levels, as the index posted its lowest reading since January 2018.

November 2019 - Shipment volumes have now been negative for 12 consecutive months. In response, truckload linehaul rates continue to be soft (-3.5% year over year) as capacity remains in excess. 

October 2019 - Dropping -5.9% in October, freight volumes have been negative for 11 months in a row. The rate of contraction is getting worse, and two years of growth have been erased. 

September 2019 - Freight shipments drop 3.4% YoY. Also down are international airfreight volumes, housing starts, auto sales. Tariffs with China remain a threat to U.S. freight.

August 2019 - Against a strong 2018, North American shipments negative YoY for 9th month.

July 2019 - Eight months of negative freight volumes signal economic contraction.

June 2019 - Dropping another -5.3% in June, shipments are negative for seven months.

May 2019 - Down 6.0% year over year, the Cass Shipments Index now shows sixth month of declines in North American freight volumes.

April 2019 - Shipments decline another 3.2% year over year.

March 2019 - North American freight shipments declined year over year for the fourth straight month.

February 2019 - Freight shipments see moderate decline for third straight month; still high compared to last ten years. 

January 2019 - Shipments are down slightly; many modes continue to report limited amounts of capacity. The Cass Expenditures Index is signaling continued overall pricing power for those in the marketplace who move freight.


December 2018 - The transportation economy continues to signal economic
expansion ... people are still making things, shipping things, and buying things, perhaps not at the scorching pace attained earlier this year, but still at an above-average pace.

November 2018 - Shipments increase modestly YoY (.6%) – enough to signal economic expansion. Freight expenditures, however, grow disproportionately at 8.4%.

October 2018 - Slightly slowed growth in goods flow, but at 6.2%, our shipments index continues to signal solid economic growth.

September 2018 - 8.2% growth in freight shipments signals a continued expanding U.S. economy.

August 2018 - Despite Wall Street’s concerns about the increased threat of inflation or interest rates hikes, the data displays accelerating strength on top of increasingly difficult comparisons.

July 2018 - the U.S. freight economy is extremely strong, with shipments up 10% year over year.

June 2018 - U.S. economy is clearly ignoring trade war angst and concerns from Wall Street. 

May 2018 - Demand is exceeding capacity in most modes of transportation - significantly.

April 2018 - Volume remains strong, pricing even stronger. Capacity is still tight, but easing.

March 2018 - The story of strong freight volumes continues; of note this month is an explosion in heavy industrial. 

February 2018 - Volume continues to be strong, pricing even stronger – unnecessarily raising broader inflation concerns.

January 2018 - Shipments and expenditures continue their run of positive year over year comparisons, but at an accelerated pace.

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