The U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index, a quarterly analysis of freight shipment volumes and spend by organizations shipping goods, revealed fairly flat national shipment and spend indexes for the third quarter of 2019 as compared to the prior quarter. Against an economic backdrop which suggested both indexes might be down, the data indicated shipments increasing, and spend slowing down, slightly. Third quarter results are not consistent with some predictions that an economic recession is around the bend.
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- Compared to a solid second quarter, the U.S. Bank National Shipment and Spend Indexes were mostly flat during Q3.
- Retail sales accelerated from the second quarter, helping support shipments from July through September.
- Regional data provide context for the growth and economic factors affecting the industry.
- Midwest: with factory output contracting and agricultural exports negatively impacted by trade war headwinds, overall performance was the weakest of the five regions.
- Northeast: driven primarily by solid consumer spending and new home construction, it’s the only region to post year-to-date volume increases in all three quarters of 2019.
- Southeast: Hurricane Dorian helped spur the shipment index up 3.9% as goods flowed in for recovery efforts, triggering the first year-over-year increase in four quarters.
- Southwest: saw mixed results again, especially in shipments; the spend index, while flat in Q3, remains at all-time high levels.
- West: was one of just two regions to post sequential and year-over-year gains in shipments, while a 4.6% spending jump in Q3 helped offset the combined 6.4% drop from Q1 and Q2.
"The third quarter U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index aligns with much of the other data we’ve seen,” said Bob Costello, senior vice president and chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. “However, it was interesting to see the divergence of freight types and freight markets despite the relatively flat spend and shipment indexes compared to Q2. For example, for-hire truckload contract freight volumes outperformed less-than-truckload volumes, and within the truckload market specifically, contract freight performed better than did spot volume activity.”
“The significant rise in the freight spend volume compared to the third quarter of 2018 is good news leading into the 2019 holiday season,” said Bobby Holland, U.S. Bank vice president and director of Freight Data Solutions. “But we remain cautious with our level of optimism. While consumer spending appears to be the driving force behind a lot of the increased spending, we have to contrast that positive news with the knowledge that more and more motor carriers continue to exit the business, and that’s a trend that could continue.”
To see the full report including in-depth regional data, visit the U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index website.
U.S. Bank pioneered electronic freight payment more than 20 years ago. The U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index measures quantitative changes in freight shipments and spend activity based on data from transactions processed through U.S. Bank Freight Payment. The business processed more than $27.6 billion in 2018 for some of the world’s largest corporations and government agencies.
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