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ATA reports seasonally adjusted tonnage fell 0.9 percent in August and is up 3.2 percent annually

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
September 25, 2012

The push and pull nature of freight transportation volumes in today’s economy remains largely intact based on the results of today’s August trucking volumes released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The ATA reported that seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in August—at 118.3 (2000=100)—fell 0.9 percent, following a flat July and June, which was up 1.2 percent compared to May, representing the largest month-to-month increase in 2012 year-to-date. SA tonnage was down 1.0 percent in May.

On an annual basis, SA tonnage in August was up 3.2 percent, following July’s 3.2 percent gain, which marked the largest annual SA gain since February 2012. It matched
June’s 3.2 percent annual gain, which was the smallest annual gain since May 2012. On a year-to-date basis, SA tonnage is up 3.7 percent compared to the first eight 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, increased 5.7 percent from July to August at 126.8. This represents a 3.0 decrease from August 2011.

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.

“While there has been acceleration in housing during the last few months, truck tonnage is being weighed down by a flattening in manufacturing output and an unintentional increase in inventories throughout the supply chain” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “While choppy, tonnage has essentially been flat this year with August being the second lowest month of the year.”

Costello also said it is reasonable to expect tough year-over-year comparisons to continue through the rest of the year as tonnage grew nicely during the last five months of 2011, adding the economy isn’t expected to grow much in the second half of the year as manufacturing decelerates and excess inventories are worked off. Tonnage is expected to increase less than 3.5 percent in 2012, according to the ATA. 

This estimate remains in line with Costello’s previously forecasted range of 3 percent-to-3.5 percent. If this estimate holds true, it would come in below the matching annualized rates of 5.8 percent in both 2010 and 2011, according to ATA data.

As previously reported in recent months, this tonnage data comes at a time when various mixed economic signals remain intact, including flattish retail sales numbers for the majority of 2012 and a slowdown in manufacturing output in recent months, among others.

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.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
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. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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