ATA reports October tonnage is mixed on non-seasonal and seasonal basis

Impact of Hurricane Sandy felt in October volumes

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The American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported today that October volumes dipped, due in part to the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

The ATA said that seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in October—at 113.7 (2000=100)—dipped 3.8 percent annually, following a 0.4 percent decline (which was revised from a 0.1 percent gain) in September, marking the third straight monthly decline for a cumulative 4.7 percent decrease. And it noted that the SA for October is at its lowest level since May 2011.

The SA for October, said the ATA, is down 2.1 percent and represents the first annual decrease since November 2009. But on a year-to-date level through October, the SA is up 2.9 percent compared to the first ten months of 2011.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, hit 123.7 in October, which was 7.7 percent better than September and was 5.2 percent higher than the October 2011 NSA.

As defined by the ATA, the not seasonally-adjusted index is assembled by adding up all the monthly tonnage data reported by the survey respondents (ATA member carriers) for the latest two months. Then a monthly percent change is calculated and then applied to the index number for the first month.
“Clearly Hurricane Sandy negatively impacted October’s tonnage reading,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement.  “However, it is impossible for us to determine the exact impact. I’d expect some positive impact on truck tonnage as the rebuilding starts in the areas impacted by Sandy, although that boost may only be modest in November and December. Excluding the Hurricane impacts, I still think truck tonnage is decelerating along with factory output and consumer spending on tangible-goods.” 

The ATA executive also pointed out that a large drop in fuel shipments into the affected area likely put downward pressure on October’s tonnage level since fuel is heavy freight, in addition to reductions in other freight.

Even without the generational storm Hurricane Sandy, overall economic activity continues to represent an ongoing pattern of stops and starts, including flattish retail sales, coupled with high holiday shopping expectations, a bounce back in manufacturing output over the past three months, a still struggling but slowly growing employment outlook, and an uncertain future due in large part to the Fiscal Cliff.

Various shippers and carrier have repeatedly told LM that volumes remain in a holding pattern to a certain degree, with no real positive indications that things will change soon.

At last week’s NITL-IANA TransComp exhibition, both shippers and carriers explained that they expect current volumes and market conditions to largely remain at current levels, due to the nation’s fiscal challenges, which, if progress is not made by Congress, could drag the economy back into a recession and nix many of the hopeful indicators seen in recent months.

Noel Perry, senior consultant at FTR Associates, said on a Webcast hosted by his firm earlier this month that the current trucking market reflects—and actually magnifies—uncertainty in regards to the economy.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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