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Weekly Transportation Update: Consumer inflation rose in March at the same rate as February

Posted by The FTR Experts on 4/15/24 8:28 AM

Consumer inflation is sticky in March. Prices in the supply chain saw a slight increase, but at a slower pace compared to February. Additionally, there's a concern over rising diesel prices for freight transportation.

  • Producer-level pricing moves higher due to services.
  • Insurance premium costs appear to be rising for trucking operations.
  • Truck spot rates decline after four straight weeks of increases.
  • Rail carload, intermodal volumes decrease in the latest week.

Tags: Economy, WTU


Pesky consumer inflation in March was the big economic headline of the week. Pricing within the supply chain also rose but by a slower rate than it did in February. Another pricing issue specifically for freight transportation is an increase in diesel prices as crude prices move higher.

Other notable indicators were a solid increase in U.S. trade in goods and a decrease in the inventories-to-sales ratio in the wholesale sector. Also, the number of new businesses in the transportation and warehousing sector declined notably in March.

Supply chain inflation

Unlike pricing for consumers, price increases at the producer level decelerated in March. The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.2% m/m, seasonally adjusted, which is the smallest increase since the PPI dipped 0.1% in December.

The March PPI increase is fully attributable to a 0.3% gain in prices for final demand services. The index for final demand goods was down 0.1%. The PPI increased 2.1% for the 12 months ended in March, which was the largest increase since April.

Excluding food, energy, and trade services, the PPI also increased 0.2% m/m after rising 0.3% in February. The 12-month change was 2.8%.

The tiny decrease in final demand goods followed a 1.2% increase in February and was attributable to a drop in energy prices.

Auto insurance premiums

Aside from freight transportation services pricing, another indicator of interest is the PPI for commercial auto insurance premiums, which rose for the third straight month and is up 2.1% y/y.

The PPI for commercial auto insurance premiums generally has been rising since April 2023, and the y/y increase is the largest since December 2019. That benchmark is notable because a sharp run-up in insurance premiums during 2019 was a major factor in an increase in trucking failures that year.


After four straight weeks of gains, the total broker-posted spot market rate in the Truckstop system declined just under 1 cent during the week ended April 5 (week 14).

The decrease in spot rates for dry van equipment was the largest in six weeks while the refrigerated spot rate drop was the largest in eight weeks. Flatbed spot rates declined as well but only by just over half a cent. Although load postings were down from the prior week, they recorded their strongest y/y comparison in more than two years.

For more on week 14 spot metrics for truck freight, visit https://freight.ftrintel.com/spotmarketinsights.


North American rail carload and intermodal volume declined in the latest week but were close to or above the levels during the same week last year, according to data from the American Association of Railroads. Carload volume fell 2.3% week-over-week, although a 9.4% drop in coal – by far the single largest rail commodity – was the principal drag on traffic. Economically sensitive carload freight, which excludes coal, petroleum, and grain, was down only 0.8% from the prior week.

Intermodal volume fell a relatively sharp 3.7% w/w, although the y/y comparison was still a strong 11.2% as week 14 last year also saw a notable drop.

Through the first 14 weeks, North American rail traffic is up 2.2% solely due to intermodal’s strength. Intermodal volume is up 8.6% from the same 2023 period. Total carload volume is down 3.6% as coal volume continues to deteriorate. Coal is down 14.4% y/y through the first 14 weeks of the year.

Only three carload commodity groups – petroleum/petroleum products, chemicals, and motor vehicles and parts – are posting stronger volumes than during the comparable 2023 period. Several other commodity groups are down less than 1.5% y/y, however. After coal, the weakest commodity group y/y is nonmetallic minerals, down 7.1%.





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      Weekly Transportation Update: Consumer inflation rose in March at the same rate as February