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ATA reports that February volumes are up for fourth straight month

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
March 19, 2013

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported today that trucking volumes showed modest gains in February.

The ATA said that seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in February increased 0.6 percent to 123.6 (2000=100), following a 1 percent (downwardly revised from 2.4 percent) gain in January. This represents the fourth straight month the SA has grown, which has not occurred since late 2011, according to the ATA. And the ATA added that over the last four months SA tonnage has increased a cumulative 7.7 percent.

On an annual basis, the February NSA is up 4.2 percent, which is in line with January’s 4.6 annual bump. Year-to-date, the NSA is up 4.4 percent, compared to a 2.3 percent annual gain for the same period in 2012 compared to 2011.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was 113.5 in February, which was 5.5 percent below January, which was revised from 122.4 to 120.1

As LM has reported, some industry analysts maintain that the not seasonally-adjusted index is more useful, because it is comprised of what truckers haul. 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.

“Fitting with several other key economic indicators, truck tonnage is up earlier than we anticipated this year,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “While I think this is a good sign for the industry and the economy, I’m still concerned that freight tonnage will slow in the months ahead as the federal government sequester continues and households finish spending their tax returns. A little longer term, I think the economy and the industry are poised for a more robust recovery.”

Other drivers for relatively decent tonnage data include an improving housing market, slight gains in retail sales, and steady manufacturing output.

But Charles W. “Chuck” Clowdis, Managing Director, Transportation Advisory Services, at IHS Global Insight, explained that these increases are small, explaining that the sequester situation and the general malaise about Washington is taking its toll on most working Americans.

“Many do not understand it,” he said. “Instead, they look at it as ‘OK, so the Stock Market is booming, but I’m working 2-3 jobs and my standard of living is way down. I’m middle class and my pay checks this year are 20 percent lower than same time last year and my employer is uncertain about hiring more help, even deciding whether to continue my health insurance, and we are giving millions to Egypt and Morocco.”

He added that people are tired of not having new things and some spending is reactionary and hopefully not from credit or cashed-in 401Ks or IRAs.

What’s more, he said that motor carrier executives need to temper enthusiasm, especially when it comes to expanding and also buying new equipment unless the old equipment clearly needs to be upgraded, especially with rising maintenance costs. 

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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