Import/Export Records Set in First Quarter 2012

May 18, 2012
There were some “record-setting events” in the latest Logistics Market Snapshot, courtesy of the Georgia Center of Innovation. The U.S. set all-time records for both import and export volumes, increasing 5% and 3% respectively in March.

There were some “record-setting events” in the latest Logistics Market Snapshot, courtesy of the Georgia Center of Innovation. The U.S. set all-time records for both import and export volumes, increasing 5% and 3% respectively in March.

U.S. seaports set the all-time record for TEU imports in April (up 9.2% over March). This totaled 1.52 million TEUs imported, and the second-largest number of shipments ever, with 756,000 processed.

The active container ship fleet reached a record 15 million TEUs. This is driven by deliveries of new vessels and a sharp reduction in the number of laid-up ships. Sixty-two new container ships have been delivered since January, 23 of which exceeded 10,000 TEUs each.

Both CSX and Norfolk Southern brought in record Q1 2012 profits as earning rose 13.7% and 26% respectively year-over-year.

Now the rest of the numbers:

Transportation Indexes:

• The Dow Jones Transportation index was up 0.9% during April (based on the stock performance of twenty large, well-known U.S. companies in the transportation industry, average of April 10th thru May 10th);

• NASDAQ Transportation Index remained decreased 3% in April (Averaged share weights of NASDAQ-listed companies classified as transportation companies, average of April 10th thru May 10th);

• The USDOT's freight transportation services index decreased 0.8% in March 2012 following an increase of 0.5% in February. The Index’s reading of 109.4 was 0.8% higher year-over-year (Source: US DOT);

• The April shipments index rose 1.9% over the previous month and increased 0.2% year-over-year. The April expenditures index increased 3.4% for the month, and increased 5.1% year over year (Source: Cass Information Systems,, based upon transportation dollars and shipments of Cass clients comprised of over 400 shipping companies);

Imports and Exports:

• In March, the U.S. imported about $238.6 billion of cargo, the highest on record. March U.S. imports have increased 5.2% in terms of value over the previous month and grew 8.4% year-over-year. (Source: US Census);

• In March, the U.S. exported more than $186.8 billion of cargo, the highest on record. March U.S. exports have increased 2.9% in terms of value over the previous month and grew 7.3% year-over-year. (Source: US Census);

• U.S. import prices decreased 0.5% in April, the first monthly decrease since a 0.4% decline in October 2011. Despite the April decline, import prices rose 0.5%over the past year. The price index for U.S. exports rose 0.4%in April, following a 1.5% increasein the first quarter of 2012 (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

• During the first quarter, intermodal traffic was up for all container sizes. Year-to-date, 53-foot container traffic surged 15.9%, 40-footers were up 3.1%, and 20-footers increased by 2.8%year-over-year (Source: Intermodal Association of North America |


• Compared to 4Q-2011, 4Q-2012 jobs in the transportation and warehousing sectors are expected to increase at a rate of 1.4%in the U.S. (Source: Moody’s Analytics).

Parcel Shipping:

• The U.S. Postal Service lost $3.2 billionin the fiscal second quarter, $1.1 billion morethan the year before. The agency blamed much of the losses on having to pre-fund retiree health benefits, not being able to close thousands of post offices and mail process centers, and being restricted from cutting some 120,000 workers and Saturday delivery. While revenue related to shipping and packages grew more than 13%in the second quarter year-over-year, mailing service revenue fell 3%.

• Package delivery company UPS reported a 4.3% increasein first quarter revenue to $13.1 billionfrom $12.6 billion a year earlier. The company’s operating profit rose 6.3%to $1.6 billion year-over-year on a 4.3% increasein packages delivered, to 1 billion packages.


• Railroad bulk carload freight in April 2012 decreased 2% from March 2012. Freight traffic in April fell 5.5% from April 2011. The decrease in freight rail traffic was mainly due to a decline in coal shipments. Carloads excluding coal increased 3.2% over the previous year. (Source:; this report includes rail car-loadings by 19 different major commodity categories as well as intermodal units);

• Intermodal rail traffic in April 2012 was 3.6% higher than April 2011 and 0.3% higher than March 2012 totals. Intermodal loadings have experienced year-over-year gains for 29 straight months (Source:;


• Over-the-Road Trucked Shipments rose 0.1% in April following a 0.3% increase in March and a 0.7% increase in February. Overall trucked shipments decreased 1.9% on a year-over-year basis. (Source:, from the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index which is based on real-time fuel consumption data for over the road trucking);

• The ATA’s seasonally adjusted cargo index rose 0.2% in March. The for-hire truck tonnage index rose 2.7% year-over-year. (Source: American Trucking Association |;

• The spot market for truckload freight in April rose 12% compared to the previous month, and was 12% higher year-over-year. Truck capacity rose 3% for the month, and was up 13% year-over-year (Source: TransCore Freight Index,;


• Global air freight in March rose 0.3% from one year ago and was up 2.2% from the previous month. North American air freight in March rose 2% year-over-year. (Source:; global air freight covers international and domestic scheduled air traffic. North American traffic includes only domestic freight traffic.)

• In March, average international air cargo prices rose 7.3% from the previous month. Average air freight rates were up 2.8% year-over-year. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)


• Import shipment volume, in TEUs, at U.S. ports increased 9.2% in April from the previous month and rose 7.2% from the previous year. April has shown the highest number of TEU imports, with over 1.52 million TEUs imported, and the second largest number of shipments, with 756,000 processed. U.S. imports are expected to show further increases during the summer months, with spikes in May, July and August. (Source: Zepol Corporation |


• The U.S. average industrial vacancy rate was 9.6% during Q1 2012, down from 10% in the previous quarter. (Source: Cushman & Wakefield);

Purchasing Manager’s Index:

• The National PMI rose 1.4 points to 54.8 in April 2012. The April PMI has indicated expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 33rd consecutive month. New orders increased 3.7 points to 58.2 and production rose 2.7 points to 61.0. (Source: Institute for Supply Management; The PMI combines data on new orders, inventory, production, supplier deliveries, and employment. A reading above 50 indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding.)

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