WHAT IS ‘Cass Freight Index’

Cass Freight Index is a measurement of the monthly aggregate deliveries of U.S. freight. Cass Information Systems, a provider of automated payment systems, compiles the index. The company claims to be the nation’s largest payer of freight bills, on behalf of its shipping clients. The firm’s index is a popular indicator of U.S. shipping activity. It encompasses over 1,200 divisions of more than 400 unique companies and manufacturers.

The index comprises the actual freight expenses of the underlying food, automotive, chemical retail, heavy equipment and packaged goods companies whose freight transactions Cass processes annually. Data within the index reflects rail, truck, air and all other modes of domestic freight transportation. 

BREAKING DOWN ‘Cass Freight Index’

Cass Freight Index reflects freight volumes for organizations that spend anywhere from $1 million to more than $1 billion to move freight annually. According to Cass, the diversity of shippers and the aggregate volume of transactions included in the index represent a statistically meaningful representation of North American shipping activity.

Of note, the related Cass Freight Index Report includes data on both aggregate freight shipments and expenditures. Additionally, the report breaks out data related to dry-bulk shipments and flatbed freight deliveries. Both the index and report are frequently cited by financial media, as well as trade publications dedicated to freight shipments. The index also is included in the national economic data provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Each month’s volumes within the index are adjusted to provide an average 21-day work month. Adjustments also are made to compensate for business additions and deletions to the volume figures. According to Cass, these adjustments help normalize the data to provide a basis for ongoing monthly comparisons. The index uses January 1990 as its base month.

Related Indexes

The company also produces the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, a measure of fluctuations in U.S. domestic baseline truckload costs. It attempts to isolate the linehaul component of full-truckload costs from other components, such as fuel.

Also, the Cass Intermodal Price Index measures changes in U.S. domestic intermodal costs. Unlike the truckload index which measures linehaul rates only, the Cass Intermodal Price Index attempts to tracks all costs.

Several competing index and data providers including Morgan Stanley and DAT RateView track specific parts of the freight industry, such as truckload freight. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation compiles the Transportation Services Index, which broadly tracks the movement of both freight and passengers.

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