Two indexes providing shippers with insight into US truck and intermodal pricing trends are set to be upgraded through a partnership between Cass Information Systems and the University of Tennessee. UT’s Global Supply Chain Institute has created enhanced calculation logic and methodology for both the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index and Intermodal Price Index.
The indexes, along with the Cass Freight Index, are a widely used barometer of truckload and intermodal pricing. The data for the index is generated by Cass through its freight invoice payment activity for 350 large shippers. Launched in 2005, the indexes have tracked the surface transportation pricing cycle through recession and recovery, surges and slowdowns.
The Truckload Linehaul Index also is cited in some shipper and motor carrier contracts as a trigger for rate escalation clauses, for example. The index data will be restated slightly when November data is released, Tom Bertolino, director of product development and solutions for Cass Information Systems, said. “You will see very small changes, a retuning,” he said.
The underlying goal is greater accuracy. “We’ve added 10 to 12 additional correlation points to ensure the correlation between the indexes and external data is more robust,” said Bertolino. “Certainly, the correlation with external data points has changed enough over 15 years to require us to revisit them.” The enhancements also will pave the way for new products.
“At some point, we’ll begin exploring additional modes, including less-than-truckload and ocean, and later next year begin the next evolution, looking at forecasts,” Bertolino said.
Indexes reflect long-term rate increases
The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, a measure of per-mile truckload rates before fuel surcharges and accessorials, was down 2.5 percent year over year in October — its third month in negative territory, although rates increased 1.4 percent sequentially. The Cass Intermodal Pricing Index rose 0.4 percent year over year and 3.9 percent from September.
In addition to tracking short-term peaks and valleys, both indexes — which use January 2005 as their base reading — plot out the increase in both truckload and intermodal pricing over the past decade and a half. At 139.8, the Truckload Linehaul Rate Index reading for October was up 27.2 percent from October 2008, when it reached its pre-recession high of 109.9.
In comparison, at 147.9, the Intermodal Price Index was up 11.7 percent in October from its pre-recession high of 132.4 in July 2008. The long-term escalation in both indexes put the sharp ups and downs of 2018 and 2019 in perspective. Despite the 2019 slowdown, especially in trucking, both pricing indexes remain near or at their 10-year highs.