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Weekly Transportation Update: Durable goods orders edge higher in February

Posted by The FTR Experts on 4/1/24 8:45 AM

This week's economic data has been sparse, showing minimal changes in manufacturing orders and new home sales for February. Transportation metrics like diesel prices and trucking spot rates have also remained steady.


  • Sales of new homes change little in February as sales prices continue to fall.
  • GDP in Q4 was slightly stronger than previously estimated.
  • Total trucking spot rates rise slightly in the latest week.
  • White House clears final rule on train crew staffing.

Tags: Economy, WTU


The week so far has produced little in the way of economic data, and the data that has been released indicated little change in February in the areas of manufacturing orders and sales of new homes. Even some metrics more directly related to transportation, such as diesel prices and spot rates in trucking, indicated little change in the latest week.

Next week, we will address some indicators that will be released March 29, including consumer spending and retail inventories.

Sales of new homes

Sales of new single-family homes dipped 0.3%, seasonally adjusted, in February, although the slight decrease followed a small upward revision to prior months’ data. The upshot is that sales were slightly higher than what the Census Bureau said they were a month ago. Sales were up 5.9% y/y.

While sales of existing homes have been constrained by supply – at least until very recently – the inventory of new single-family homes at current sales rates has been relatively high, coming in at 8.4 months in February. As noted last week, construction of new single-family homes is rising after a period when starts of housing units in multi-family dwellings were growing and starts of single-family homes were falling.

Contrary to the trend with existing single-family homes, sales prices for new single-family homes are falling steadily. The median sales price of a new home sold in February was just over $400,000, which is down 3.5% from February and more than 19% from the all-time high in October 2022.

The median price, which was the lowest since June 2021, is still nearly 21% higher than it was in February 2020. However, the median price of an existing home is 42% higher than it was in that month. On the other hand, the median price of an existing home solid in February was more than $10,000 less than the median price of a new home.

Updated GDP estimate

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ third estimate of real Gross Domestic Product in 2023Q4 showed a slightly stronger economy than previously indicated.

Real GDP rose 3.4%, seasonally adjusted, on an annualized basis. The prior estimate had been 3.2%. The update principally reflects upward revisions to consumer spending and nonresidential fixed investment that were partially offset by a downward revision to private inventory investment.


The total broker-posted spot market rate in the Truckstop system edged higher during the week ended March 22 (week 12). Total rates have risen for three straight weeks – the first streak of that length this year – although the cumulative increase over that period is less than 3 cents. The total rate increase in the latest week was less than 1 cent. Dry van spot rates rose while refrigerated and flatbed rates declined.

Total load postings rose in the latest week, but a sharp increase in flatbed volume offset lower volume for van equipment. Flatbed loads were more than 15% higher than in the same 2023 week for the strongest y/y comparison since February 2022. Due in large part to flatbed’s strength, total load volume was up 9% versus the same 2023 week – also the strongest comparison since February 2022.

For more on week 12 spot metrics for truck freight, visit https://freight.ftrintel.com/spotmarketinsights.

Train crew staffing rule

The White House Office of Management and Budget on March 22 cleared a final rule concerning minimum railroad crew size requirements. Details will be available when the Federal Railroad Administration announces the final rule, which could occur in a matter of days.

As proposed in July 2022, FRA would require a minimum of two crewmembers for all railroad operations with exceptions proposed for operations that do not pose significant safety risks.

FRA also proposed requirements for the location of crewmembers on a moving train. FRA further proposed a special approval procedure to allow railroads to petition FRA to continue legacy operations with one-person train crews and to allow any railroad to petition FRA for approval to initiate a new train operation with fewer than two crewmembers.

For more information on the FRA proposal, visit https://www.regulations.gov/docket/FRA-2021-0032.






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      Weekly Transportation Update: Durable goods orders edge higher in February