The Freight Intel Group at FreightWaves thought it would be interesting to compare the year-over-year growth in credit card spending data to the year-over-year movements in FreightWaves’ Outbound Tender Volume Index (SONAR: OTVIY) since the COVID-19 induced lockdown and recession began in early March 2020.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) began publishing credit card data on a weekly basis in early March showing year-over-year changes by total card spending, retail ex-autos spending and by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code (in order to classify spending data by subsector).

The overall goal here is to determine what kind of influence the consumer has on overall trucking volumes (which naturally varies seasonally) and if there is any significant correlation or directional relationship in terms of magnitude and timing.

At FreightWaves, we estimate that about 25% of trucking volume in the U.S. is from non-food retail and if one includes food retail, that figure grows to closer to 35% to 40%. Therefore, we would expect at least a decent relationship between consumer credit card spending and load volumes but the strength is unknown until we test the data.

The hypothesis is that if we can gauge what the consumer is doing on a near real-time basis and there is a statistically significant relationship between the credit card data and load volumes, then we can gauge what trucking volumes will also be doing and therefore which direction rates should flow accordingly based on our view of capacity.

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