ATA reports seasonally adjusted tonnage is up 0.4 percent in September and 2.4 percent annually

The ATA reported that seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in September—at 118.7 (2000=100) was up 0.4 percent after declining 0.9 percent in August on the heels of a flat July and June.

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Trucking volumes in 2012 can mostly be summed up in one word: flat. That is the major takeaway of September data released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The ATA reported that seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in September—at 118.7 (2000=100) was up 0.4 percent after declining 0.9 percent in August on the heels of 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.

Compared to September 2011, September SA tonnage was up2.4 percent, which ATA said represents the lowest annual increase since December 2009. Through the first nine months of 2011, the ATA said SA tonnage is up 3.6 percent.

The ATA added that during the third quarter, SA tonnage increased 0.4% from the previous quarter and 3.4% from the same quarter in 2011.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, fell 9 percent from August to September at 115.3. This represents a 4.2 decrease from September 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.

“The year-over-year deceleration in tonnage continued during September, although I was encouraged that the seasonally adjusted index edged higher from August,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “Expect year-over-year comparisons to continue shrinking through the rest of the year as tonnage grew nicely during the last three months of 2011,” noting that he expects to tonnage to increase less than 3.5 percent this year.

What’s more, Costello explained that the acceleration in housing starts, which is helping truck tonnage, is being countered by a flattening in manufacturing output and elevated inventories throughout the supply chain.

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.

But the news is not all bleak as housing starts are up and freight flows appear to be solid on an anecdotal basis as holiday shopping season approaches. The uptick in B2C and increasing e-commerce-related shopping activity could also have a net positive effect on trucking volumes, according to various industry stakeholders.

BB&T Capital Markets analyst Thom Albrecht wrote in a recent research note that while “U.S. freight volumes, in general, have been sloppy or even mediocre since early June, they have been reasonably steady even if below seasonal expectations.”

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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