LTL and Truckload Rates Growth Continues
October 13, 2021
Cowen/AFS Freight Index will serve to provide Cowen’s institutional
clients with predictive pricing tools for multiple sectors within the
freight industry, on a quarterly basis. The Freight Index will provide a
performance snapshot of less-than-truckload shipping (LTL), full
truckload shipping (TL), and parcel shipping (both express and ground,
separately). This data will be featured in Cowen’s market-leading air
freight and surface transportation equity research. Jason Seidl, Cowen’s
Senior Analyst for Airfreight & Surface Transportation, is leading the
LTL: The Cowen/AFS LTL Freight Index suggests that LTL rate per pound should continue to grow sequentially in 4Q21 at 32.3%, up 2.1% sequentially, off the January 2018 AFS baseline. On a year-over-year basis, the data suggests ~16% growth, a sequential increase in 4Q (noting a sequential step down from November to December). We found a correlation between the sequential change in the LTL Freight Index baseline and sequential change in revenue per hundredweight. LTL stock performance also historically leads (and correlates with) the revenue per hundredweight metric LTL companies provide by roughly one quarter. Therefore, we view the positive sequential trends and new highs for the LTL Freight Index as a positive for the LTL group.
Parcel/Express Parcel: The Cowen/AFS Parcel Freight Index suggests that ground parcel rates per package will increase 16.9% in 4Q21, up 2.1% sequentially, off the January 2018 AFS baseline. On a year-over-year basis, the data suggest ~9% growth. For parcel express, the Cowen/AFS Parcel Express Freight Index suggest that express rates per package will decline 10.9% in 4Q21, compared to -8.9% in 3Q, off the 2018 AFS baseline. On a year-over-year basis, the data suggest ~13% growth. We found a correlation between certain large parcel carrier KPIs and the Parcel Freight Index.
Macro: We have found the year-over-year AFS data (and the TL Freight Index in particular) to correlate well with the year-over-year change in the Purchasing Managers’ Index. This may provide investors with perspective on potential movements of the PMI. The TL Freight Index, which tracks truckload rates per mile, indicates how much carriers are charging shippers to move TL freight. A strong demand environment (which is what we are seeing play out in the market now), leads to elevated rates (without considering the supply side), which implies a strong manufacturing index.
Other Takeaways: Since March 2021, AFS has seen the average weight per shipment within LTL steadily decrease, likely due to the ongoing shift to e-commerce. Despite this, rates have still increased, with labor shortages and other capacity restraints contributing. Carriers have been able to implement steep rate increases on shippers and have been even more aggressive on surcharges to move undesirable freight.