Average less-than-truckload yield increased 3 percent in the first quarter among large publicly owned motor carriers tracked by The Journal of Commerce.
That rise was the first sequential quarterly increase in the percentage rate of LTL yield growth since the third quarter of 2011, reflecting 2012’s sluggish economy.
Although the JOC LTL yield average has consistently risen since turning positive in the third quarter of 2010, the pace of the post-recession increase has flagged.
The yield average, collected for the JOC Trucking Dashboard, reflects an overall slowdown in price hikes among the $19 billion LTL carrier group tracked by the JOC. The next dashboard will be published June 10.
Growth in LTL revenue per hundredweight, which reflects higher pricing and fuel surcharges, had been slowing for five quarters, according to the JOC analysis.
That slowdown in part reflected tough comparisons with quarters in the early part of the economic recovery that saw strong increases in LTL pricing and yield.
But the slowdown also reflected a stuttering economy that saw gross domestic product growth drop to 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The yield growth rate dropped from its most recent peak of 11.3 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2011 to 2.4 percent in the 2012 fourth quarter.
The 3 percent year-over-year increase in yield in the first quarter may in part reflect stronger economic growth. The U.S. GDP rose 2.5 percent in the quarter.
The increase also reflects a stable pricing environment and ongoing efforts by LTL carriers to cleanse their trucks and networks of less-profitable shipments.
LTL carriers also continue to realign their networks. YRC Freight, the third-largest LTL carrier, is moving ahead with plans to close 29 of its 295 terminals.
Con-way Freight, the second-largest LTL carrier, this week said it plans to build an $8 million, 96-door terminal in Fond du Lac, Wis., expanding local capacity.
ABF Freight System, the sixth-largest LTL carrier, plans to raise non-contract rates 5.9 percent on average June 30, a sign truckers will push for higher pricing.