ATA reports sharp gain in seasonally-adjusted truck tonnage in December

With the economy continuing to show modest signs of progress, truck tonnage volumes ended 2013 on a positive note, according to data issued today by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

By ·

With the economy continuing to show modest signs of progress, truck tonnage volumes ended 2013 on a positive note, according to data issued today by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in December ticked up 0.6 percent in December, following November’s impressive 4.7 percent gain (which was upwardly revised from a previous figure of 2.7 percent), as the index checked in at 131.7 in December compared to 130.9 in November. ATA officials said that the December SA stands as a new record-high and is up 8.2 percent compared to December 2012.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment was 123.0 in December, falling 1.4 percent below November’s 124.8.  The December NSA was up 10.3 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.

“Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement “The final quarter was the strongest we’ve seen in a couple of years, rising 2.2 percent from the third quarter and 9.1 percent from a year earlier. I’m seeing more broad-based gains now. The improvement is not limited to the tank truck and flatbed sectors like earlier in the year. With manufacturing and consumer spending picking up, coupled with solid volumes from hydraulic fracturing, I look for tonnage to be good in 2014 as well.”

This sentiment from Costello matched up with commentary from carriers that indicated the second half of 2013 was stronger than expected, as the manufacturing sector shows continued strength, coupled with good but not great holiday retail shopping and solid growth in the housing and automotive sectors, too.

In as recent interview with LM, Noel Perry, senior consultant at freight transportation consultancy FTR said paying attention to the general economy is where the assessment regarding future trucking capacity and growth really begins.

“There are two main concerns,” said Perry. “With the exception of the third quarter of 2013 (which saw GDP grow 3.6 percent), the economy has not truly accelerated in the last couple of years, and the multipliers on GDP that produce truck freight are relatively low and the combination of a relatively slow economy relatively low multipliers indicate trucking will grow between 2-3 percent [in 2014] on a base case.”

KeyBanc Capital Markets Analyst Todd Fowler wrote in a research note that both seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted tonnage reflect ongoing strength in capacity intensive automotive, energy-related and housing end markets.

“However, commentary in today’s release suggests strength is becoming more broad-based following a pick-up in manufacturing and consumer spending,” he wrote.


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

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

ATA · Tonnage · Trucking · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Making the Case for FedEx Critical Inventory Logistics
FedEx Critical Inventory Logistics is designed to help companies streamline and drive costs out of their aftermarket service supply chains to meet customer service level agreements and grow their bottom-line revenues.
Download Today!
From the December 2017 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
Trade and transport analysts see rates rising across all modes in accordance with continued expansion of domestic and international markets. Economists, meanwhile, say shippers can expect revenue growth in transport verticals to remain in the 3%-plus range.
2018 Customs & Regulations Update:10 observations on the “digital trade transformation”
Moore on Pricing: Freight settlement and your TMS
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
2018 Rate Forecast
Join our panel of top oil and transportation analysts for an exclusive look at where rates are headed and the issues driving those rate increases over the coming year.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Building the NextGen Supply Chain: Keeping pace with the digital economy
Peerless Media’s 2017 Virtual Summit shows how creating a data-rich ecosystem can eliminate...
2017 NASSTRAC Shipper of the Year: Mallinckrodt; Mastering and managing complexity
An inside look at how a large pharmaceutical firm transformed its vendor and supplier relationships...

2017 Alliance Awards: Recognizing outstanding supply chain partnerships
In an era where effective supply chain collaboration is both highly valued and elusive, Logistics...
26th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends: Transportation at Digital Speed
While a majority of companies strongly agree that transportation is a strategically important...