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Trucking, rail shipments expanded in October after a long-term slump, and analysts say e-commerce is helping drive business heading toward the holidays

Nov. 25, 2016 2:31 p.m. ET

Roads and railways are busier this fall as U.S. companies ship more goods and materials in response to improving consumer spending.

Domestic freight shipments rose 2.7% in October from the same month a year ago and advanced 1% from September, according to the latest monthly survey by Cass Information Systems Inc., suggesting new momentum for shipping demand that has been in a long-term slump.

October marked the first year-over-year volume gain in 20 months, freight analystDonald Broughton said in the report. “The winter of the overall freight recession we have seen for over a year and a half in the U.S. may not be over, but it is showing signs of thawing,” he wrote.

The trend appears to have continued into November. Last week, the Association of American Railroads reported a 2.8% year-over-year improvement in weekly rail traffic, and online freight marketplace DAT Solutions said truckload volumes were up 7% compared with the same week last year.

Major U.S. railroads carried more intermodal volume—the traffic largely provided by retailers that moves between trucks and railroads—in October than in any month this year, and the business is picking up at a time of year when it usually trails off.

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