AND FREIGHT INDEX
CTRACK TRANSPORT AND FREIGHT INDEX
December 2019 Transport and Freight Index Report
Released: 31 January 2020
Short ray of light seen in Ctrack Freight & Transport Index
Bad news for the economy mounted in the fourth quarter of 2019, which is evident in the latest Ctrack Freight & Transport Index. The Index shows that only sea freight volumes recorded positive growth during the quarter.
The freight volume decline of -4,5% over the last year is the steepest since May 2016 for the total logistics industry. The Index also shows an overall decline of five months when measuring on a year-ago basis.
The medium-term trend has been negative, too; only one month has experienced positive growth, while another has been neutral in the last year.
Sea freight volumes are positive due to a strong increase in breakbulk and dry bulk transportation. Coal, Iron Ore and Chrome exports are doing well. However, the number of containers landed and shipped are in decline. South African households are feeling the pressure of the weak economy and load shedding.
With both consumer and business confidence negative in the 4th quarter of 2019, most freight transporters are feeling the effects in tonnages and real income declines.
Land transport, which had maintained positive numbers until September for rail freight and October for road freight, has given way to year-on-year declines. In addition, pipeline volumes have declined -5,2% over the last year.
While airfreight volumes are in decline, there is evidence of stronger international freight growth into South Africa. This is due to the demand for consumer technology and may include high-value items such as cellphones and laptops.
The Ctrack Freight & Transport Index has indicated declining freight volumes for four months now on a year ago basis. This is not a long period of decline but is certainly hurting the industry.
Short ray of light gives some hope
The good news is that December 2019 saw positive changes in five of the six sectors on a seasonally adjusted basis despite load shedding.
However, December is usually the main holiday month leaving one to wonder if it can maintain this strength beyond January. Nonetheless, the short-term trend is somewhat encouraging, particularly in terms of bulk goods volumes transported by rail and through the ports.
Lower outputs were likely recorded in December 2019 from manufacturing and mining. Some retailers have pointed to disappointing sales in December and the rise in inventories is likely due to misjudged sales expectations.
In this weak climate, it is vital that firms control costs with better route planning, security and right-sizing of equipment. More than ever, knowledge in the organisation will make a difference - from the drivers to the supervisors to the managers. Informed is prepared in this environment.
The impact of low confidence will mean those freight transporters who are prepared and informed about the wider climate as well as the micro details of their own firms, will have a better chance of survival.
Sea freight volumes show where the economy is in detail
The Ctrack Freight & Transport index is made up of many small indices which allow for detailed discussions about the performance of the various logistics sub-sectors.
Sea freight volumes in the Index are comprised of containers, breakbulk and bulk lines. We include landed and shipped indices for containers but not for breakbulk or vehicles.
The fact that both landed and shipped containers declined over the last year indicates that South Africa’s higher value-added export sector is not able to gain traction beyond passenger cars.
At present, vehicle exports are growing but the number of containers shipped is in decline. As containers are more likely to house higher valued goods, the decline is at least partly due to a slowdown in the manufacturing of foods, clothes, higher-value steel products and the like.
Most containers landed contain consumer goods destined for retail shelves. However, consumers increasingly buy bargains, as shown by strong Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Bulk commodities increased +10,4%, with coal and iron ore leading the way. The main destination for South Africa’s Iron Ore is China, while India takes the lion’s share of our coal.
With the Coronavirus outbreak impacting China, exported iron ore volumes may record a decline. The major bulk imported into South Africa is oil, which had a very small volume increase in the last few months.
Imports of breakbulk were up +14% in the 4th quarter. But, not all of this is necessarily good news, as these imports could be for drought-stricken parts of South Africa and its neighbours.
Export breakbulk volumes are not rising as quickly, but are still increasing. Breakbulk or general cargo is not normally of such high value that it needs a container, but is generally of higher value than bulk commodities.
Broad data shows that some mining can produce more or at least has stocks in reserves to maintain export performance.
Consumer imports are struggling, but vehicle exports continue to grow. Older data shows that vehicle import volumes are constrained.
Table of Freight & Transport volume changes:
|Quarter to December: 2019 vs 2018||December and November 2019||Quarter to Dec vs. Quarter to Sep 2019.|
|Storage & Handling||-12,6%||22,2%||-9,3%|
Note: The row highlighted in blue is the main Ctrack Transport & Freight Index values used.
Also Note: All our year-to-year comparisons are based on moving quarters unless otherwise stated. This allows for better trend analysis of the Ctrack Freight & Transport Index.
October 2019 Transport and Freight Index Report
October Ctrack Transport and Freight Index tracks economy down
The Ctrack Transport and Freight Index continues to reflect the slowing nature of the South African economy.
According to the Index, all logistics sub sectors measured in South Africa, except road freight, recorded declines between August and October 2019 compared to the same three months in 2018.
Concerns must be mounting in boardrooms across the country as the economy struggles with slowdowns in manufacturing, mining and retail.
Road freight still showing positive growth
Road freight, the largest sector in South Africa by volume and value, increased 1% during the period from August to October 2019 versus the same time in 2018.
Short distance transport volumes of retail goods and FMCG are still expanding, while the continuous shift to online shopping is helping parcel delivery volumes. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will also prop up this category.
However, the strongest road freight income growth has come from the small furniture transport sector, which may have to do with emigration and families moving to more secure locations – even while home sales remain subdued.
Off the rails
Rail freight volumes declined -1,8% between August and October 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, which indicates that primary mining products are not being exported or used as much.
Furthermore, metal products have seen the largest decrease as a few medium-sized firms have closed in the last 12 months. The decline in metal products income in nominal terms was -6% and, although not all of this was in the rail sector, the knock-on effect to mining would have hurt the rail freight industry.
Air and sea freight volumes declined by -2,4% and -3,4% respectively between August and October 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. This reiterates the impact of a weak global economy and the trade war between China, the world's largest manufacturer and the USA, the world's largest consumer. Bulk commodity and container shipping are also in decline.
But, by far the worst performing sub sector has been storage. Manufacturers and internal traders are keeping stocks low as they expect trading conditions to worsen. Both the ABSA PMI and the Trade Activity Index from SACCI, show that role-players are concerned about the strength of the economy.
Added to this is the decline in the international storage of containers transhipped in South African ports. Transhipments declined a massive -19,3% between August and October 2019 versus the same period a year ago. While big shifts are not uncommon in the storage sector, it is concerning when all categories in this subsector are so negative.
The total decline of -14,3% in the amount of goods warehoused between August and October 2019 compared to the same period last year, is a relative indicator of the poor confidence that firms have of short-term economic performance.
Thankfully, interest rates are lower than before and are likely to drop further, reducing the cost of storage. Moreover, the shift to online shopping means that at least from that perspective (albeit small) the warehousing sector has a few positives to draw from.
However, the biggest factor in the broader logistics sector is the lack of confidence that goods will be sold relatively quickly, and that quick refilling of shelves will have to take place.
Retail price increases have remained below overall consumer price adjustments for about four years. In fact, retail prices have not increased over 3% for more than three years consecutively. This best reflects the fight that exists for the consumer’s pocket.
What’s in the pipeline?
Pipeline volumes declined -7% between August and October 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, mainly due to the decline in fuel sales volumes.
Overall, there seems to be no respite for the logistics industry, apart from the short boost to retail volumes thanks to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
These two selling days may be strong enough to at least see a small improvement, but otherwise, the logistics sector will have to wait until next year. Ultimately though, throughout the supply-chain there are genuine concerns about low economic growth and price pressures.
Table: The Ctrack Transport and Freight Index numbers % change
|Oct 2019 vs Oct 2018||Aug to Oct 2019 vs 2018||Sep 2019 to Oct 2019||Aug - Oct 2019 vs May - July 2019|
|Storage & Handling||-14.3%||-14.3%||-0.1%||-4.9%|
The highlighted area shows the October Ctrack Freight and Logistics Index.
“In tough economic times, the cost of operating fleets can become a very difficult task,” says Hein Jordt, MD of Ctrack SA. “The need to provide competitive rates, while part of a fleet is not moving, presents transport and freight companies with additional challenges.
“Optimising fleet usage and keeping costs low cannot be done without the support of the type of systems and solutions that Ctrack provides. Ctrack believes that certain elements - risk, driving behaviour, productivity, optimisation and asset management - should be prioritised and given the most focus, which cannot be achieved without intelligent fleet management solutions.
“The trends presented in this month’s Freight and Transport Index show that government must look even closer at the supply chain industry, and support transport and freight companies with cost-effective road regulation policies
“Improved safety measures and economic policy that supports efficiency improvements, in conjunction with well-planned integration with our country’s transport and economic infrastructure, will allow us to be competitive in the global logistics market,” Jordt concludes.
September 2019 Transport and Freight Index Report
Next edition will be available by October 30, 2019**
Ctrack Transport and Freight Index shows transport industry feeling the pinch
The Ctrack Transport and Freight Index (Ctrack TFI), previously known as the Ctrack Logistics Barometer, indicates a slower growth trend in transport volumes during September 2019. It also reveals that the slowing world economy is impacting both South Africa’s international transport volumes, as well as local rail and pipeline volumes.
That being said, road freight volumes grew 2,5% while rail freight volumes edged up 0,2% between July and September 2019 compared to the same three-month period in 2018. Considering both a slower domestic economy and a far weaker international trade environment, land freight is still in a relatively stable position.
But, the unpredictable trade war between the US and China that last year provided a welcome boost to American trade to China has this year had the reverse effect, while EU economies continue to slow. Dutch Economic Bureau, CPB, indicates that world trade volumes declined -1,5% between July and September 2019 compared to the same period a year ago. On this basis, the decline in world trade is the steepest since November 2009.
In terms of South Africa’s logistics volumes, the CTFI shows a decline of -0,7% for the period July to September 2019 compared to the same period a year ago. The Ctrack TFI also reflects a far weaker South African economy than was the case between April and June, when all indications were that growth was back in full swing.
This downturn, while not unexpected, is not good news for the South African economy and its ability to create work and income for its citizens. Weak business confidence levels need to be addressed as soon as possible, since capital investment only takes place when businesses are confident and certain about the future.
Transport operators will have to monitor their costs and performance closely. Risks must be contained as much as possible, too, while opportunities remain hard to come by.
Road freight is a highly competitive business, and transport prices have barely increased in the last year. But, some market share gains have been realised through price increases in both the rail and pipeline sectors.
Fuel products that are usually piped inland and then distributed for Gauteng users and to other provinces, are now being transported by road to places like Harrismith and Mbombela.
Furthermore, coal is being transported to local power stations by road instead of rail and conveyor belts. Other products that used to travel by rail are sometimes now also being loaded onto trucks.
Sea freight and air freight volumes continue to feel the effects of the US-Sino trade war and Brexit, and may do so for many months to come. Container shipping prices are lower in many markets, while about 3,5% of container capacity is not being used, up from 2% or so a year ago, according to Drewry shipping consultants.
Air traffic volumes between Africa and the rest of the world is growing at about 8%, albeit from a very low base. South Africa’s domestic air freight volumes, however, are in decline and not growing other than to certain African and Middle Eastern destinations. Both air and sea freight volumes have been relatively weak performers for the best part of two years now.
We have updated the storage and warehousing data to include separate indices for international trade and manufacturing, as well as domestic trade (retail as well as wholesale).
One cannot fail to notice that inventory levels are being lowered. Many retailers are storing fewer goods to save on both stock costs and floor space.
In manufacturing, the same savings are taking place as factory owners are being squeezed by slow domestic demand and export volume uncertainty. The decline of nearly 10% between July and September compared to the same three months a year ago is worrisome.
In short, the Ctrack Transport and Freight Index for October shows that in an uncertain world, the transport sector can’t escape feeling the pinch.
August 2019 Logistics Barometer Report
Next edition will be available by October 31, 2019**
Ctrack Logistics Barometer indicates road freight resilience **
Despite this, total freight volumes in South Africa are up 1.1% on a year ago on a three-month (June, July, August) moving average basis. Road freight volumes showed the strongest positive trend rising 3.1%, while sea freight volumes showed the biggest decline of -3.5%.
The global trade war is starting to have an impact on South African trade and the volume of shipped containers is a clear indication of a slowing world economy.
Break bulk volumes at South African ports have declined 35.3% from a year ago on a three-month (June, July, August) moving average basis – the biggest year-on-year decline recorded since 2008. SA container volumes declined 6.2% during the same period.
Land transport though is still growing due to internal demand, while bulk coal and iron ore exports show positive growth. However, even here the short-term trend is slower than before, with the Ctrack Logistics Barometer suggesting far more mundane economic performance in the 3rd quarter of 2019.
The pipeline sector, which is dominated by fuel transportation, indicates a small decline of -0.4% on a year ago but a much larger -5.1% decline compared to July. The price of fuel has not increased much but users have either delayed buying more in the hope of lower prices, or due to uncertainty in the short-term economic outlook.
With a sudden rise in the oil price, higher fuel prices are likely in October. If fuel volumes still decline in September, the reason will likely be attributed to the uncertain economic outlook.
The measurements below (Table 1) show freight volume changes – in percentages – over different time periods. The most important of these is the three-month moving average (June, July, August) measured against the same three months of last year.
|Aug 2019 vs Aug 2018||March to May 2018 vs 2019||Change from July 2019 to August 2019||Change from March to May 2018 vs 2019|
The drop in sea freight volumes is confirmed by the CPB World Trade Monitor. Overall, global trade is estimated to have declined by -0,4% for the three-months to June 2019 compared to the same period a year ago.
Although this data is a little earlier than the August Ctrack Logistics Barometer data, one can surmise that declining world trade will weigh on the barometer since logistics by its very nature is a cross-border industry heavily influenced by global trends.
Strangely, in contrast to slowing world trade trends, the latest IATA data shows a substantial increase in international air freight for South Africa.
Nonetheless, the global trade war is impacting world trade and that will likely have a negative impact on both sea and air freight for the next few months or even quarters. Slower growth will also influence the movement of minerals – the main income generator for Transnet Freight Rail.
Furthermore, the drought in the wheat growing regions of the southern Cape will impact road freight. More wheat may have to be imported, making for longer journeys for transporters. This may already be a reason for the positive growth seen in road freight.
“We are proud to say the Ctrack Logistics Barometer, now in it’s second month, has been well-received in the marketplace,” says Hein Jordt, managing director of Ctrack SA.
“It appears that road transport continues to gain market share, providing the backbone in the South African logistics industry. However, it remains imperative for transport and logistics companies to manage their delivery fleets closely in lieu of recent oil price increases. Only a holistic fleet management system with daily insights – such as Ctrack’s business intelligence reports and bureau services – can simplify this important task for fleets.”
July 2019 Logistics Barometer Report
Transport and Freight Industry in South Africa **
According to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank, the cost of South African logistics is estimated to be 11,8% of Gross Domestic Product. Total turnover for the logistics industry for enterprises only involved in mining, retail and manufacturing, was estimated to be R274 billion in 2018.
However, warehousing, road freight and even pipeline volumes, are often not categorised as logistics.
For example, when major retailers like Shoprite or Pick ‘n Pay transport and store goods, the transported volumes are listed under the retail category. Retailers like these see transportation as a cost centre and any savings they make would be categorised as retail savings. Similarly, when a steel manufacturer delivers steel, the value add of the transportation is measured under manufacturing.
Transport as a cost centre is therefore difficult to accurately measure and is significant in the road freight and storage sub-sectors.
This means the country’s entire logistics sector is far more extensive than the estimated R274 billion, and is probably far closer to R480 billion. Furthermore, some services such as docking fees or air traffic control, are part and parcel of transportation generally but are not measured in a logistics or supply chain index.
There is also overlap between sea freight and cargo handling and the same is true of air cargo. Sometimes cargo spends time at the country’s ports and is charged storage or handling fees.
Supply chains are integrated, too, and enterprises can be registered differently in terms of their primary business. For example, we include Transnet terminals as part of the sea freight sector, but one could argue that it is also part of the cargo handling and storage sub-sectors
Below: Estimated turnover in 2018 for the SA logistics industry by sub-sector.
(R billion annually)
|Rail freight||61 870|
|Road freight||131 029|
|Air freight||14 053|
|Storage / Handling||38 316|
|Pipeline transport||6 024|
|Transnet / wate||22 747|
**Data dated July 2019**
The Ctrack Transport and Freight Index includes data from the road, rail, sea, air, pipelines and storage sub-sectors.
Using only the weights for actual transporters and cargo handlers for contract, we have established weights in order to make the most meaningful logistics measure possible. We have used 2016 as a base year and tried, where possible, to include small and micro operators.
** Research data supplied by Economists SA. **
2nd Quarter Land Transport Volumes Encouraging **
The Ctrack Logistics Barometer, which includes data from the road, rail, sea, aviation and pipeline sectors, shows that South Africa’s total logistics volumes rose 3.1% in July 2019 compared to the same month last year (see Figure 1).
The barometer also indicates that total logistics volumes in the 2nd quarter of 2019 improved 2,7% compared to the 1st quarter of 2019, the strongest level of growth recorded since November 2018 (see Figure 2)
The bounce back in the 2nd quarter of 2019 is attributed to more stable electricity supply from Eskom. July is the start of the 3rd quarter and if the trend holds up then we are confident that the economy will record further growth during the quarter.
The positive results were largely driven by the country’s land transport sector, which is up 4,6% on last year.
The number of heavy trucks that passed through the Tugela toll gate increased 3,6% in July compared to the same month a year ago. Heavy truck volumes on the N4 and N1 freeways recorded 6% comparative growth during the month.
Rail freight volumes, which were primarily comprised of bulk commodities, recorded 3,9% growth in July. The country’s pipeline volumes grew 2,8% for the quarter to July 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.
Sea freight saw a decline of -1,1% in volumes for the three months to July 2019 compared to a year ago, while air freight slipped -0.6% over the same period.
In Ctrack’s view, both transport modes are feeling the impact of a slowing world economy. Incidentally, exported container traffic is down -11,8% in the last three months versus the same period a year ago.
In terms of storage and warehousing, Ctrack notes that inventories have not recovered yet. This may be the reason behind increased imports, as local enterprises let stocks run down in the 1st quarter due to electricity constraints and negative economic growth. This has likely also resulted in a cautious approach to inventory and stock management.
Furthermore, the increase in imports is likely due to Rand weakness, with importers fearful that the rand may decline further. The overall picture is that the logistics industry in South Africa is in recovery mode, while stock management and Rand weakness continue to influence decision making.
Unlike container exports, bulk exports have increased +1,7%, probably due to the fact that commodities are less affected by the ongoing US-Sino trade war. It is important to note, however, that bulk export volumes record significant fluctuations nearly every month. Derailments and/or port delays can impact the entire supply chain, too.
Rail and road freight have remained strong over the short term, while storage volumes have also picked up (see Table 1).
** Research data supplied by Economists SA. **
|Last Month vs year ago||Last quarter vs a year ago|
|Change from last month||Change from last quarter|
|Last Month vs year ago||Last quarter vs a year ago||Change from last month||Change from last quarter|
Methodology used **
- Each logistics sub-sector (rail, road, sea, air, pipelines and storage/warehousing) is given a weight. These are 2016 weights which are adjusted for growth and for “cost centre transport”.
- Sub-sector measurements are recorded and indexed, with 2016 being equal to 100.
- Each sub-sector is then seasonally adjusted. The seasonally adjusted measures are again indexed to 100.
- We then add them up according to the relative weights as described above which forms a logistics index.
- Changes to the logistics index are referred to as the Ctrack Logistics Barometer.
- Each of the six sub-sectors is measured from different sources.
- All measures are recorded in volume terms (or in constant price terms).
Notes for editors **
- The Ctrack Logistics Barometer indicates freight volumes from the previous three months of 2019 against the same three months from 2018, as some monthly measures are highly volatile and can depend on single factors.
- We do not have data for all national roads in South Africa at this stage.
- Well over 10 000 heavy trucks a day travel on the country’s national and provincial roads.
- Land transport figures include coal transportation to power stations, although most quoted land transport volumes relate to general consumer and intermediate goods transportation.
- In terms of air freight, we do not have the direction of travel available, only the total volumes. Some trade analysts have stated that the trade upheaval will impact air freight products first as they are more likely to be “just-in-time” type goods.
- All data is updated as it is made available.
- We expect to have some Lanseria airport data in the next six to eight months.
- We hope to receive urban traffic data from ETC and Sanral soon.
Data Sources **
- Road freight: Statistics SA Land Transport Survey, N3 toll concession, Bakwena, TracN4, Sanral.
- Rail freight: StatsSA. Richards Bay terminal for estimates.
- Sea freight: Transnet National Port Authority
- Air freight: ACSA, IATA
- Pipeline data: SARS fuel tax collections
- Storage and warehousing: StatsSA Quarterly Financial Statistics, Transhipment data from Transnet National Ports Authority.
- Supplemented by economists.co.za for rail and air freight estimates. Last month based on data obtained from the above sources.
**Research data supplied by Economists SA. **