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Trucking: ATA reports gains in October tonnage numbers

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
November 22, 2011

Seasonally-adjusted truck tonnage in October was up for the third time in the past six months, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The ATA’s advance seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage index increased 0.5 percent in October, following a revised 1.5 percent September gain. It was down 0.5 percent and down 1.3 percent in August and July, respectively and up 2.6 percent in June, which was preceded by 0.6 and 2.0 percent declines in April and May, respectively, continuing a largely uneven pattern of freight transportation volumes.

The SA index is currently at 116.3 (2000=100), which is 0.5 percent of September, and it is up 5.7 percent compared to October 2010 and is 4.4 percent below the all-time SA high from October 2005. This annual gain is in line with September’s which was up 5.7 percent year-over-year.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was at 118.5 in October, down 0.8 percent from September and also below the 123.8 recorded in August. On an annual basis, October was up 4.8 percent.


119.5 in September, which was 3.1 percent below 123.8 in August and ahead of July’s 111. The September 2010 NSA index was 112.4, putting the September 2011 NSA up by 5.9 percent.

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.

“Tonnage readings continue to show that economy is growing and not sliding back into recession,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “Over the last two months, tonnage is up nearly 2 percent and is just shy of the recent high in January of this year. Manufacturing output has been the primary reason why truck freight volumes are increasing more than GDP. The industrial sector should slow next year, but still grow more than GDP, which means truck tonnage can increase faster than GDP too.”

Manufacturing has been seen as a primary driver of any economic momentum currently occurring, with retail sales largely flat heading into the holiday season, coupled with the lack of a real 2011 Peak Season.

But at the same time, carriers told LM at last week’s TransComp Exhibition in Anaheim that demand is steady, with the expectation that it will remain that way through the holidays. And in recent months, both shippers and carriers have explained that even though things are relatively steady in light of an uncertain economy, a good amount of the momentum occurring in the market earlier in the year has definitely lessened.

Avondale Partners analyst Donald Broughton wrote in a research note that the U.S. economy is not heading into a double dip as freight flows continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace than some had anticipated earlier in the year.

“I hope the increased tonnage numbers are not just re-stocking in anticipation of a very robust seasonal spend,” said Charles W. “Chuck” Clowdis, Managing Director, Transportation Advisory Services, at IHS Global Insight, in a recent interview. “Consumer spending has risen but Consumer Sentiment is a percentage to keep an eye on.”

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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