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ATA reports seasonally adjusted tonnage is up 3.6 percent in February

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
March 20, 2014

Despite ongoing harsh winter weather conditions, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported today that trucking volumes in February still saw some gains.

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in February rose 2.8 percent, following a 4.5 percent (revised from 4.3 percent) decline in January. The index was at 127.6 (2000=100) compared to 124.1 in January and was below the all-time high of 131.0 in November. Compared to a year ago, the February SA was up 3.6 percent and on a year-to-date basis SA tonnage is up 2.3 percent.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment came in at 116.5 in February, down 4.5 percent from January’s 122 and up 2.6 percent annually.

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.

“It is pretty clear that winter weather had a negative impact on truck tonnage during February,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. “However, the impact wasn’t as bad as in January because of the backlog in freight due to the number of storms that hit over the January and February period. The fundamentals for truck freight continue to look good. Several other economic indicators also snapped back in February. We have a hole to dig out of from such a bad January, but I feel like we are moving in the right direction again. I remain optimistic for 2014.”

As previously reported, Weather aside, many shippers and carriers indicate that things are moving along as expected when viewing the market on a seasonal basis.

But they concede that such atypical weather patterns are making an imprint on supply chain operations, with far more contingency and capacity planning being required than normal.

While volumes are seeing modest annual gains, truckload capacity continues to be tight, and there is a sentiment among industry stakeholders that indicates that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

“While adverse weather is partially masking freight activity 1Q14-to-date, our due diligence indicates underlying freight activity is stable, which, combined with regulatory constraints, is resulting in unusually tight capacity and firming spot rates,” wrote KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Todd Fowler in a research note. “While we expect weather to increase maintenance and fuel costs and potentially negatively impact utilization in 1Q14, we believe sustained tight capacity is shifting pricing leverage to carriers during on-going bid negotiations and should favorably impact contractual
rates in subsequent quarters. In addition, we believe capacity dynamics could further tighten in coming weeks as weather-related backlog clears and spring and produce shipment activity kicks into full swing.”

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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