The Baird Freight Index registered -4.6% in November, athree-point improvement over the -7.7% recorded in October. Much ofthe improvement, say analysts at the Milwaukee-based company is dueto intermodal growth. Year-over-year intermodal volume declined 7%compared to 11% in October. According to Baird, both rail andtruckload spot market demand indicators were slightly above normalseasonal trend lines.

Langenfeld and Hartford see the difference in sector performanceas a sign that freight share is shifting away from trucks to rail.While they acknowledge that "competitive truck pricing continues toweigh down intermodal pricing," they maintain that intermodalcarriers and railroads will benefit as truckload pricing powerreturns.

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According to the Arlington, VA-based ATA, its truck freightindex fell 3.5% in November compared with November '08. In October,the index was down 5.2% from a year earlier. The seasonallyadjusted index reached 106.4, its highest level in a year. The notseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnageactually hauled by member companies, reached 100.8, down 8% fromOctober.

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"Slowly, but surely, truck freight has started the recoveryprocess, and November's solid increase is a very positive sign,"says ATA chief economist Bob Costello. "Truck freight had been hurtby both slow economic output and bloated inventories. However, wenow have evidence that the inventories are in much better shape,which will not be such a drag on truck freight volumes."

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But Costello cautions that the path to recovery is not likely tobe steady. "While the economy and trucking is improving, theindustry should not get overly excited about the sizable increasein November. I continue to believe that both the economy and trucktonnage will exhibit starts and stops in the months ahead, but thegeneral trend should be for moderate growth."

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Langenfeld and Hartford, on the other hand, are slightly moreoptimistic that the upward trend will continue unbroken. They sayrail volumes' year-over-year comparisons will ease significantlyand carloads will remain stable heading into the new year.

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